Employment: The Autism Advantage
It is estimated that more than 80% of adults with autism are unemployed. Research suggests that employers are missing out on abilities that that people on the autism spectrum have in greater abundance– such as, heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning, as well as a greater attention to detail. The United Nations declared 2’nd April as World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of children and adults, who are affected by autism, so they can lead full and meaningful lives.
The word “autism,” which has been in use for about 100 years, comes from the Greek word “autos,” meaning “self.” The term describes conditions in which a person is removed from social interaction — hence, an isolated self.
Autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys and in UAE it is one in 50 children. Autism prevalence figures are growing over the years.
Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction :-
These children can present with a variety of symptoms By 8 to 10 months of age, many infants who go on to develop autism are showing some symptoms such as failure to respond to their names, reduced interest in people and delayed babbling. By toddlerhood, many children with autism have difficulty playing social games, don’t imitate the actions of others and prefer to play alone. They may fail to seek comfort or respond to parents’ displays of anger or affection in typical ways. To parents, it may seem as if their child is disconnected. Both children and adults with autism also tend to have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking and feeling. Subtle social cures such as a smile, wave or grimace may convey little meaning. The tendency to “lose control” may be particularly pronounced in unfamiliar, overwhelming or frustrating situations. Frustration can also result in self-injurious behaviors such as head banging, hair pulling or self-biting. Young children with autism tend to be delayed in babbling and speaking and learning to use gestures. Some infants who later develop autism coo and babble during the first few months of life before losing these communicative behaviors. Others experience significant language delays and don’t begin to speak until much later. When language begins to develop, the person with autism may use speech in unusual ways. Some have difficulty combining words into meaningful sentences. They may speak only single words or repeat the same phrase over and over. Some go through a stage where they repeat what they hear verbatim (echolalia).
Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities
Unusual repetitive behaviors and/or a tendency to engage in a restricted range of activities are another core symptom of autism. Common repetitive behaviors include hand-flapping, rocking, jumping and twirling, arranging and rearranging objects, and repeating sounds, words, or phrases. Sometimes the repetitive behavior is self-stimulating, such as wiggling fingers in front of the eyes. The tendency to engage in a restricted range of activities can be seen in the way that many children with autism play with toys. Some spend hours lining up toys in a specific way instead of using them for pretend play. Similarly, some adults are preoccupied with having household or other objects in a fixed order or place. It can prove extremely upsetting if someone or something disrupts the order. Along these lines many children and adults with autism need and demand extreme consistency in their environment and daily routine. Slight changes can be extremely stressful and lead to outbursts.
• No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
• No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
• No babbling by 12 months
• No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
• No words by 16 months
• No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
• Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age.
If you see any of these red flags please rule out Autism
What causes autism?
Recent research has identified more than a hundred autism risk genes. Most cases involve a complex and variable combination of genetic risk and environmental factors that influence early brain development.
Who are autistic prodigies?
Savant syndrome is a condition which is seen in 10% of autistic children where he/ she demonstrates profound and prodigious capacities or abilities far in excess of what would be considered normal. The most dramatic examples of savant syndrome occur in individuals who score very low on IQ tests, while demonstrating exceptional skills or brilliance in specific areas, such as rapid calculation, art, memory, or musical ability.
What can we offer?
Multi modal approach is the general treatment approach for autistic disorders which recommends the following strategies for helping a child to improve overall function and reach his or her potential:
1. Behavioral training and management:- positive reinforcement, self-help, and social skills training to improve behavior and communication. Many types of treatments have been developed, including Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), and sensory integration.
2. Specialized therapies which include speech, occupational, and physical therapy.
3. Medicines: Medicines are most commonly used to treat related conditions and problem behaviors, including depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
4.Community support and parent training:Talk to your doctor or contact an advocacy group for support and training.
Plan it in a good way…
• Build on your child’s interests.
• Offer a predictable schedule.
• Teach tasks as a series of simple steps.
• Actively engage your child’s attention in highly structured activities.
• Provide regular reinforcement of behavior.
Involve the parents.
What are their rights?
Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)
1, “Free and Appropriate Public Education” (FAPE)
2, “Least Restrictive Environment” (LRET)- mainstreaming or inclusive education.
3, Early Intervention Services at no cost
4,Special Education Services
5, Extended School Year (ESY) Services
How do you deal with autism diagnosis in your children?
Give yourself time to adjust. Be patient with yourself. It will take some time to understand your child’s disorder and the impact it has on you and your family. Difficult emotions may resurface from time to time. There may be times when you feel helpless and angry that autism has resulted in a life that is much different than you had planned. But you will also experience feelings of hope as your child begins to make progress.
Yes, it is our responsibility…
Persons with AUTISM are Always Unique Totally Interesting Sometimes Mysterious; we can focus, target and polish their strength which will help them to come to the mainstream of the society by excelling in professions where these capabilities can be used. In fact they may perform better than many others in selected professions if we can do judicious selection of careers for autistic friends. Respect their rights understand their strengths and thereby we can deliver our responsibilities towards them in a better way to take them with us to contribute for our nations development
Dr. Shaju George, MBBS, DPM, MD(PSYCHIATRY), FIPS
Mind Wellness Department