Autism or autism spectrum disorder is a condition pertaining to challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non verbal communication.
There are several types and different characteristics, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with it has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which they learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.
Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues. Studies shows that boys have higher tendencies of being on the spectrum than girls.
Signs of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. The list of the symptoms are in exhaustive. However, it should be noted that one person may not have all these symptoms. Some of the major symptoms are:
- delay in speech
- inability to properly interact with others
- some difficulty in reaching major milestones like average people of same age
- For some, inability to chew or eat properly.
- withdrawal syndrome: That is always desiring to be left alone
- Self harm
- Banging and hitting of head
- Inability to answer their name
- Sensitivity to noise
- unnecessary attachment or fear and apprehension over a particular unusual thing
In Nigeria, recently statistics show that 1 in every 60 children is autistic. This has increased the level of awareness and intervention. The awareness is a great improvement from years ago where autism was likened to madness or spiritual issues. Nigeria and Africa being a very spiritual nation, would always avoid scientific causes of situations.
The recent awareness has been a welcoming situation as many therapists and specialist on the field are gradually evolving. Also more people have more interest in acquiring knowledge in that field.
The importance of early intervention cannot be overemphasized. Many trained therapists have always reported that they achieve more results and success when they start working with the child early.
As earlier stated, although there might be no specific cure to the diagnoses because of the peculiarity of each. However with early intervention and support, it can always be managed to a very minimal point where all the symptoms vanishes. Most times maturity and age plays a great role as most of them outgrow it
Autism is not a death sentence and no child should suffer stigmatization because of it. the onus lies on the people around the victim to show love and care. Patience is a very important virtue that must be demonstrated towards them. People on this spectrum may not know how to express themselves but it does not evade them from having feelings. With the right mindset and awareness, it can be managed and the autistic person can leave a very fulfilled life.