Autism Spectrum Management in Children
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition related to brain development early on that impacts how a person perceives outside world and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communications. This disorder may include hypersensitivity to certain things (touch and sound) and repetitive patterns of behavior (like finger twisting or making circles). The term "spectrum" in autism disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms clusters and functional levels. American Wellness Center based in Dubai Healthcare City specializes in Autism related problems in children.
Some children show signs of autism spectrum disorder in early infancy, such as reduced eye contact and reciprocity, lack of response to their name or indifference attitude towords the caregivers. Other children may develop normally for the first few months of life or appears to be, but then suddenly become withdrawn or aggressive or lose language skills they've already acquired. Signs usually are seen by age 2 years or less.
Due to the unique mixture of symptoms in each child, severity can sometimes be difficult to determine. It's generally based on the level of impairments and how their functional levels.
Social Communication and Interaction
A child with autism spectrum disorder may have problems with social interaction, poor eye contact and communication skills, including any of these signs:
- Fails to respond to his or her name or appears not to hear you at times
- Resists cuddling and holding, and seems to prefer playing alone, retreating into his or her own world
- Has poor eye contact and lacks reciprocal facial expressions
- Doesn't speak or has delayed speech, or loses previous ability to say words or sentences
- Can't start a conversation or keep one going, or only starts one to make requests or label items
- Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm and may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
- Repeats words or phrases verbatim, but doesn't understand how to use them
- Doesn't appear to understand simple questions or directions
- Doesn't express emotions or feelings and appears unaware of others' feelings
- Doesn't point at or bring objects to share interest
- Inappropriately approaches a social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive
- Has difficulty recognizing nonverbal cues, such as interpreting other people's facial expressions, body postures or tone of voice
Patterns of Behavior
A child with autism spectrum disorder may have socially limited, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities, including any of these signs:
- Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping
- Performs activities that could cause self-harm, such as biting or head-banging
- Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
- Has problems with coordination or has odd movement patterns, such as clumsiness or walking on toes, and has odd, stiff or exaggerated body language
- Is fascinated by details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car, but doesn't understand the overall purpose or function of the object
- Is unusually sensitive to light, sound or touch, yet may be indifferent to pain or temperature
- Doesn't engage in imitative or make-believe play
- Fixates on an object or activity with abnormal intensity or focus
- Has specific food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or refusing foods with a certain texture
When is it Time to see a Doctor?
Signs of autism spectrum disorder often appear early in development when there are obvious delays in language skills and social interactions. Your doctor may recommend developmental tests to identify if your child has delays in cognitive, language and social skills, if your child:
- Doesn't respond with a smile or happy expression by 6 months
- Doesn't mimic sounds or facial expressions by 9 months
- Doesn't babble or coo by 12 months
- Doesn't gesture — such as point or wave — by 14 months
- Doesn't say single words by 16 months
- Doesn't play "make-believe" or pretend by 18 months
- Doesn't say two-word phrases by 24 months
- Loses language skills or social skills at any age after attaining skills
How can we Help
At American Wellness Center Dubai, a child psychiatrist/ child psychologist, pediatric neurologist, or developmental pediatrician will perform an evaluation for autism spectrum disorder.
As autism spectrum disorder varies widely in symptoms and severity, it may take few assessments before a final diagnosis is shared with caregiver. There is no specific medical test to determine the disorder. Instead, a specialist may:
- Observe your child and ask how your child's interactions with others, communication skills and behavior have developed and changed over time
- Your child may need testing for hearing, speech, language, developmental level, and social and behavioral issues
- Structured social and communication interactions with your child can help score his/her performance
- Clinician will use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association
- Include other specialists in multidisciplinary team to reach diagnosis and management
- Recommend genetic testing to identify whether your child has a genetic disorder such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome
What is the Treatment?
At American Wellness Center based in Dubai Healthcare City our goal is to maximize your child's ability to function by reducing symptoms and supporting development and learning. Early intervention during the preschool years can help your child learn critical social, communication, functional and behavioral skills.
The range of home-based and school-based treatments and interventions for autism spectrum disorder can be overwhelming, and your child's needs may change over time. Our well qualified clinicians create a personalized treatment plan best suites to your child’s needs and based on family dynamics and will recommend most helpful options.
Treatment options may include:
- Behavior and communication therapies. Many programs address the range of social, language and behavioral difficulties associated with autism spectrum disorder. Some programs focus on reducing problem behaviors and teaching new skills. Other programs focus on teaching children how to act in social situations or communicate with others. Applied behavior analysis (ABA)( according to some) can help children learn new skills and generalize these skills to multiple situations through a reward-based motivation system.
- Educational therapies. Children with autism spectrum disorder often respond well to highly structured educational programs. Successful programs typically include a team of specialists and a variety of activities to improve social skills, communications and behavior. Preschool children who receive intensive, individualized behavioral interventions often show good progress.
- Family therapies. Parents and other family members can learn how to play and interact with their children in a ways that promote social skills, manage problem behaviors, and teach daily living skills and communication.
- Other therapies. Depending on your child's needs, speech therapy to improve communication skills, occupational therapy to teach activities of daily living, and physical therapy to improve movement and balance may be beneficial. A psychologist can recommend many ways to address problem behavior.
- Medications. No medication can improve the core signs/symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, but specific medications can help control mood symptoms, aggressive and inappropriate behavior. Our highly qualified and American board-certified Child and adolescent psychiatrist will prescribe medications only when it is inevitable and absolutely necessary. Our main goal is to bring stability through therapies with minimum use of medication.
Managing other Medical and Mental Health Conditions
In addition to autism spectrum disorder, children, teens and adults can also experience:
- Medical health issues. Children with autism spectrum disorder may also have medical issues, such as epilepsy, sleep disorders, limited food preferences or stomach problems. At AWC ask your child's doctor how to best manage these conditions together.
- Problems with transition to adulthood. Teens and young adults with autism spectrum disorder may have difficulty understanding body changes. Also, social situations become increasingly complex in adolescence, and there may be less tolerance for individual differences. Behavior problems may be challenging during the teen years.
- Other mental health disorders. Teens and adults with autism spectrum disorder often experience other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Your doctor, mental health professional, and community advocacy and service organizations can offer help.
Planning for the future
Children with autism spectrum disorder typically continue to learn and compensate for problems throughout life, but most will continue to require some level of support. We encourage you to stay motivated to help and cater the needs of your child without intervals which can lead to continuous improvement in your child’s situation.
We recommend following your child’s provider’s instruction and treatment plan. With help and support we can bring improvement to a child’s life.
Give us a call or visit our Clinic in Dubai Healthcare City.