What is autism?
In our Princeton, NJ office our team of child psychiatrists are often asked to explain what autism is to parents. Autism, also called autism spectrum disorder, is a group of complex neurodevelopmental disorders that affect behavior, communication, and social interaction. Autism is a “spectrum disorder” because there is a wide range of types, symptoms, and disabilities. Research is ongoing still into the causes of Autism.
What are the symptoms of autism?
The autism symptoms range from mild to severe; they affect how a person communicates, interacts with others, and behaves. Boys and girls can present very different when it comes to Autism, with girls generally being higher functioning.
Some common signs and symptoms of autism include:
- Little or no eye contact
- Not looking at objects someone is pointing to
- Not listening to people when they talk
- Difficulty relating to people
- Inability to express feelings or understand other people’s feelings
- Facial expressions or movements that don’t match words
- Problem with back and forth conversation
- Repetitive behaviors
- Obsession with topics or objects
- Trouble adapting to a new routine
- Overreact to certain smells, noise, or touch
Pediatricians screen every child for developmental delays at their well-child visits. There is increasing awareness in Autism. If your child isn’t meeting their developmental milestones, your pediatrician may suggest consulting with a child psychiatrist to further evaluate your child.
How is autism diagnosed?
Dr. Memon is an experienced child psychiatrist and performs a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose autism. During an assessment, he asks detailed questions about:
- Medical history
- Family history
- Birth history
To diagnose a person with autism, they must meet specific criteria, as noted in the Diagnostic and Statistical Mental Disorders (DSM-5) created by the American Psychiatric Association.
For an autism diagnosis, a person must have difficulty interacting and communicating with other people, restricted interests, repetitive behaviors, and symptoms that affect their ability to function normally at school, work, or other areas of life.
What is core deficits in autism?
The core deficits in autism are impaired communication. Children with ASD are often absorbed into themselves and seem to exist in a private world in which they have limited ability to communicate successfully and interact with others. They may struggle to acquire language skills and comprehend what people are saying to them. They often have difficulty understanding nonverbal cues including eye contact, facial expressions, and hand movements as well.
What are some early indicators of ASD in kids?
Children with ASD may have difficulty with social interaction and may have difficulty initiating or maintaining social interactions, such as making eye contact, smiling, or engaging in back-and-forth play. Children with ASD may have a delay in language development or may have difficulty with expressive language (using language to communicate their needs and wants) or receptive language (understanding language that is spoken to them). They may also have difficulty with nonverbal communication, such as eye contact or facial expressions. Children with ASD may have sensory sensitivities, such as being oversensitive to loud noises, bright lights, or certain textures, or being under-sensitive to pain or other sensations.
Why is late diagnosis a major issue in autism spectrum disorder?
One major issue when dealing with autism is delayed diagnosis. The first signs start showing during 12-18 months of age in most children, but diagnosis usually occurs between 48-60 months. This delayed diagnosis is not good enough as there are sensitive times and critical windows when brains are more responsive to treatment. Late diagnosis leads to late treatment, which isn’t as effective as changes in synaptic development have already taken place. It is never too early to start treatment in Autism. Girls are often later diagnosed with Autism because symptoms are generally less severe. Girls with Autism also have higher coping mechanism than males, making detection more difficult.
Why does timing matter when treating an autistic person?
As our understanding of Autism evolves, it is clear that diagnosing Autism earlier is essential. Timing is a crucial factor when treating an autistic person. This is because autistic children have impaired communication and do not send the message in a conversation. While one such instance is nothing to worry about, millions of such instances that occur over several months can change synaptic development. Diagnosis should be made at the earliest, so synaptic development is not changed, and an autistic person can live a better life.
Is there a test for the early diagnosis of autism in infants?
Tests have been designed for early diagnosis of autism. Ami Klin has developed one such test. This test uses biometers to identify an infant at risk. In this test, a baby’s eye contact is noticed to detect autistic symptoms. Consistent eye contact means that the baby does not have ASD, while little to no eye contact is an indicator of ASD. However, we at garden psych do testing ages 4 and up.
How is autism treated?
Dr. Memon takes an integrative and holistic approach to care and develops personalized treatment plans based on the severity of symptoms, function, and disability. Treatment may include:
- Applied Behavioral Analysis
- Speech Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Medication Management
- Social Skills Training
- Dietary Changes
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
You child may also required an individualized education plan(IEP) from the school to help your child achieve their full potential. Children with Autism can also often have Anxiety and ADHD. When the ADHD and anxiety of children with Autism is treated, it can lead to significant improvement in their functioning.
For scheduling an autism consultation you start by calling us at 609-601-4161