Some Words on Autism

While many of you reading this may be aware of what autism is, knowledge regarding it is scarcely available in Pakistan.

Namely, autism is a term used for multiple neurological developmental disorders showing up in concurrence. These disorders involve impairments in speech and cognitive functioning. In many cases, people with autism go on to live relatively normal lives. However, to increase the chances of that happening, early diagnosis and treatment is crucial.

There are numerous symptoms that may indicate the presence of autism. If your child is showing some of these symptoms, they should be taken for a diagnosis:

The child shows little to no eye contact.
Does not respond to one’s own name (but does respond to other sounds)
Little or no speech, or may show echolalia (parroting the other persons words.
Repetitive body movements (such as rocking back and forth)
The Autism Resource Center has a more thorough list of symptoms and early signs, as well as answers to some frequently asked questions.

As is the case with all mental illnesses in this country, treatment is not readily sought out. And as is the case with all mental illnesses, treatment is extremely important, and in most cases, necessary for functioning in society.

Many parents may go into denial even after seeing a considerable number of indications that their child might be on the spectrum. There are two very important things such parents must know. The first of which is that if you take your child to get tested, and if he turns out not to be autistic, life will go on as normal; but if your child is autistic, and you don’t get him diagnosed (and treated) your child’s life will be far less normal than it could otherwise have been.

The second thing is that most autistic people do not view autism as a disability, which is why we shouldn’t either. Indeed special education is often necessary for the autistic child, and so is extra treatment; However, in the long run, depending on the severity, those children grow up to not only live independently, but also get jobs and get married. In other words, they go on to live healthy fulfilling lives, and they owe that to the skills they learn during treatment. Additionally, in some situations, autism actually proves to be advantageous for the person.

According to an article by Tribune, on autism in Pakistan, a German company known as SAP AG “hires individuals on the spectrum for a variety of jobs. The condition helps people with autism pay a lot of attention to details, a highly useful trait for the company’s software testing.” Successful employment for autistics is not exclusive to software development. Many people with autism turn out to be gifted in music or fine arts.

Once we stop looking at autism as less a disability, and more a “set of quirks” if you will, then we will start to see its many merits. And when we start to see these merits, we will begin to utilize them in fields where they would be most effective. For that to happen, we must act quickly, because the sooner the treatment begins, the better it becomes for the child to learn the skills he/she needs to adapt to society.

What to Expect from Treatment
There is no 100% cure for autism, but treatment is very effective in helping the child lead a somewhat normal life later on. The treatment itself varies from child to child. Every child won’t have the same severity of speech, cognitive or social impairment, thus each child must be carefully diagnosed. And a treatment must be custom—made for the child.

Autism can be considered a learning disability and it can become quite difficult for the child to keep up with the rest of the class. The child’s presence often tends to become counter-productive for him/her as well as the rest of the class due to an unsuitable environment. For these reasons, Special education is extremely important for the autistic child. The presence of a professional who understands the child’s symptoms along with the individual attention he/she receives makes for a more effective learning process.

Medicine can be combined with treatment to reduce problem behavior in a child during the learning process, but on its own, there is no medical treatment for autism.

In addition to all this, the parents will also have to make some extra effort on their child than those of the average child, however, once they overcome these hurdles, what awaits their child is a future filled with hope and possibilities. Early treatment can make all the difference, so please don’t hesitate.