Autism Q & A
What is autism?
Autism, otherwise known as autism spectrum disorder or ASD, is a wide range of brain development disorders that affect a person’s social skills, speech, and nonverbal communication. Autism tends to make social interaction and communication particularly difficult for those who live with it.
Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder because it encompasses a wide range of symptoms that can vary greatly in severity. Each and every case of autism is unique, from low functioning to high functioning and low intelligence to high intelligence.
When do the symptoms of autism present themselves?
Children typically exhibit signs of autism by age two or three, though some indicators can appear as early as their first year. In rarer instances, a child might seem to be developing normally within their first year, and then regress between 18 and 24 months, during which time they begin to exhibit symptoms.
What are the early indicators of autism?
Not all babies follow the average rate of development, but babies with autism spectrum disorder exhibit pronounced delays in the development of their language skills and social interactions. Dr. Okoh might recommend testing for autism if your child doesn’t:
- respond with smiles or happy expressions by 6 months
- mimic facial expressions or sounds by 9 months
- coo or babble by 12 months
- a gesture by 14 months
- say single words by 16 months
- play pretend or “make believe” by 18 months
- say two-word phrases by 24 months
Dr. Okoh will also want to test for autism if your child exhibits a loss of socials skills or language skills at any age.
As children with autism get older, they exhibit a noticeable difficulty with social interaction and communication skills. The exact complications are incredibly varied, but can include:
- failure to respond to their name
- poor eye contact
- inability to start or maintain a conversation
- difficulty understanding nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions or tones of voice
- repeating words or phrases without really understanding how to use them
The other large category of symptoms is patterns of behavior. Those with autism exhibit limited and repetitive patterns of behavior, activities, or interests.
What are the treatment options for autism?
There is no cure for autism, but there are a number of different treatments that can make a significant difference in managing its symptoms and improving a child’s ability to learn, develop, and function. Identifying and beginning treatment during a child’s preschool years can greatly help them to learn certain critical skills.
Different therapies are effective at managing symptoms, such as behavior and communication therapy, educational therapy, family therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. And while there is no medical cure-all for autism itself, its wide range of symptoms can be individually tamed by particular medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and medications for hyperactivity.
The number of available treatment options for autism spectrum disorder can be slightly overwhelming. Thankfully, Dr. Okoh is experienced in developing treatment plans and building a treatment team.