What is Autism?
Autism is a neurological condition characterized by difficulty in expressive speech, social reciprocity, being in a world of his/her own and not really willing or able to make social connections, exhibiting stereotypical and repetitive behavior patterns and frequent temper tantrums. Also rigidity to a functional or non functional routine is an important feature of Autism in children. Autism is not a disease and so any claims of “curing” autism are false. However, with effective intervention, Autistic symptoms can be reduced and a child can be taught coping skills to live his day to day life with ease. There are many examples of people living independent lives successfully while being on the autism spectrum. Working with an autistic child is dedicated work and requires effort spread over decades before the child turns into an adult and is able to support himself independently, nonetheless, it is possible and there is hope.
I have heard Autism referred to as Spectrum disorder, what does that mean?
Spectrum disorder means the symptoms are not absolute but on a continuum. In simpler language it means no two Autistic children are the same. A particular child might like to be fixated with highways and flyovers and create a huge fuss if the routine is changed and parents travel through another route whereas, his autistic twin may have absolutely no problem with the same change in routine. Similarly, all autistic symptoms are seen on a broad basis such as a completely non verbal child and a child with significant speech delay would both be characterized as falling on the autism spectrum as both exhibit communication difficulty.
Can Autism be screened by prenatal testing? What causes Autism?
No prenatal testing can screen a child for autism, also there is no known reason that can be pin pointed towards with evidence to say that it is the prime cause of Autism. A lot of emphasis is given on the MMR vaccines but nothing can be said with guarantee whether MMR vaccines do actually cause Autism.
Does having Autism mean my child is mentally impaired or retarded?
No Autism does not mean mental retardation. There can be a co-morbid condition associated with autism such as mental retardation but Autism in itself does not signify mental retardation. In fact some of the very famous personalities of the world were said to have autism.
Does having Autism mean my child has savant talents?
Just as it is not right to assume that a child is mentally retarded if he has autism, it is not right to also assume that the child is possessing savant talents just because he has autism. Each one of us has unique talents and flaws. Similarly so a child with Autism, if we can provide enough support and help the child outgrow self-destructive behaviours and be socially more appropriate, there is no reason why we cannot help the child develop a talent within him that was lying dormant up until now.