By anguillian May 2, 2017 09:38



Many countries throughout the world use the month of April to bring greater awareness to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to promote inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life.
What is autism spectrum disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.
Autism spectrum disorder includes conditions previously called autism, pervasive developmental disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome.
The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is rising in many countries including Anguilla. It is not clear whether this is due to better detection and reporting, or a real increase in the number of cases, or both.
In children with ASD, the symptoms are present before three years of age, although a diagnosis can sometimes be made after the age of three. At this time, there is no “cure” for ASD, but speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, educational support, plus a number of other interventions, are available to help children and parents.

What causes ASD?
The exact cause of ASD is unknown, but it is thought that several complex genetic and environmental factors are involved.
In the past, some people believed the MMR vaccine caused ASD, but this has been investigated extensively in a number of major studies around the world, involving millions of children, and researchers have found no evidence of a link between MMR and ASD.
Most researchers believe that certain genes a child inherits from his/her parents could make him/her more vulnerable to developing ASD.
Some researchers believe that a person born with a genetic vulnerability to ASD only develops the condition if he/she was exposed to a specific environmental trigger.
Possible triggers include being born prematurely (before 35 weeks of pregnancy), or being exposed in the womb to alcohol, or to certain medication such as sodium valproate (sometimes used to treat epilepsy during pregnancy).
No conclusive evidence has been found linking pollution or maternal infections in pregnancy with an increased risk of ASD.

Autism spectrum disorder impacts how a child perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in crucial areas of development — social interaction, communication and behaviour.
Some children show signs of ASD in early infancy. Other children may develop normally for the first few months or years of life, but then suddenly become withdrawn or aggressive – or lose language skills they have already acquired.
Each child with ASD is likely to have a unique pattern of behaviour and level of severity — from low functioning to high functioning. Severity is based on social communication impairments and the restrictive and repetitive nature of behaviors, along with how these impact the ability to function.
Symptoms vary from one child to another. Each child has a unique mixture of symptoms.

No cure exists for autism spectrum disorder, and there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. All children with ASD can be treated, and children can improve their language and social skills.
Several programmes are now available for children with ASD. Treatment options may include:
• Behaviour and communication therapies
• Family therapies
• Educational therapies
• Medications

Children with autism spectrum disorder may also have other medical issues such as epilepsy, sleep disorders, limited food preferences or stomach problems.
Your doctor will discuss various treatment options for these conditions. Raising a child with autism spectrum disorder can be physically exhausting and emotionally draining for the parents as well. These parents are encouraged to seek the support of family members and friends and other groups in raising a child with ASD.

Autism spectrum disorder is a brain disorder that often makes it hard to communicate with and relate to others. There is no cure now for ASD but early diagnosis and treatment have helped more and more people who have autism spectrum disorder to reach their full potential. If you suspect that your child has ASD seek professional help as soon as possible.

Ask Your Doctor is a health education column and is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. The reader should consult his or her physician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field are ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.

Dr Brett Hodge MB BS DGO MRCOG, is an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist and Family Doctor who has over thirty-two years in clinical practice. Dr Hodge has a medical practice in The Johnson Building in The Valley (Tel: 264 4975828).

By anguillian May 2, 2017 09:38


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