Autistic spectrum disorders (PDDs)
Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)
As a child progresses from a newborn to infancy to toddlerhood, we see developmental changes in all dimensions. The physical growth, advancement of language, communicating with words and actions; is all part of the normal developmental spectrum. Some children may lag behind in one or all of speech, relatedness, communication and expression, leading to pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs). Autism is one such type of PDD.
Why it occurs
We don’t have definite reasons or answers for that because largely causes of Autism are unknown. Sometimes children tend to have Autism if their parents or siblings or even distant relatives had it. The development of the child’s brain (before birth) may occasionally be hampered and the connections that link nerves together to make the brain function in the ‘normal’ pattern get affected. Autism is definitely set in motion early in life as the brain is evolving. Imaging studies have suggested that the brains of children with Autism are different from those of other children. Thus autism has pre birth causes that we cannot truly pinpoint with absolute precision. Compared to other conditions we see in childhood, autism is relatively rare. We see it in 1 out of 1000 children. Off late the prevalence of PDDs has gone up, that merely indicates that we are diagnosing these problems more often while earlier they went unnoticed. We see it more commonly today because we are more aware and have an eye for it. For some unknown reason we see it more often in boys.
Communication is the key to interpersonal awareness and intelligence. It is the mode with which human beings interact with each other and their environment. Children need to communicate and interact through use of words and actions to learn about the world and its ways. Understanding speech as well as emotions enables children to become emotive and intelligent human beings. They learn to speak and listen to others, share ideas, and deal with situations appropriately. If this development is stalled, the child’s speech, understanding and relatedness get affected. The senses (vision, speech, hearing) are disintegrated and children retract within themselves. They cannot relate to the world at all.
Avoiding diagnostic perplexity
If a child cannot hear well, he may have delayed speech; this is one of the earliest warning signs of autism; but autism implies deeper involvement besides speech. There is something different about the way these children relate to the world. They do not communicate. Not with gestures or actions either. Not even with their parents. And they develop a world within themselves. (Auto=self and ism=tendency). These children are lost within their own world and observe everything outside of their world as alien, unknown, unneeded, unwanted.
Line of normalcy
Many autistic features may appear to be normal at a certain age and may pass off as behaviors, which will change with time. However these prompt an evaluation in case they persist beyond a specified time period. Some autistic children may have associated mental retardation; in such cases the condition becomes more severe. Autism can create problems in different areas of growth and development in a child and the harm persists throughout life. They have poor language abilities, do not relate well socially and indulge in repetitive aggressive, and occasionally injurious behaviors too. Their demand for constancy makes adjustment with family and peers difficult. Socially they are disinterested in relationships. This makes acceptance by siblings and friends also low since they can get aggressive and assaultive at times.
What we can do
Autism has a harsh impact on the child and the family. It is wise to detect the developmental lag well in time and take appropriate measures to correct it. Children do not outgrow autism. Contrary to what most parents believe, autism is not something which will eventually get OK as the child grows. At MINDFRAMES we believe in timely assessment of children through parent interviews regarding development at specified intervals from birth itself. By facilitating intervention and initiating special training techniques, children can improve and adopt social skills to acquire as much normalcy as is possible.