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Autism: Parents Should Seek Medical Attention If Signs Show

Helen-OshikoyaHelen Oshikoya is an Autism Specialist and child developmental clinician. In this interview with GERALDINE AKUTU, she throws light on autism, signs and the steps parents should take in taking care of autistic children.

What should parents know about autism?
When people refer to “Autism” today, they are usually talking about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), which are five complex, brain-based disorders that affect a person’s behavior as well as social and communication skills. The Centers for Disease Control describes ASDs as: “developmental disabilities that cause substantial impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests. Many people with ASDs also have unusual ways of learning, paying attention, and reacting to different sensations. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary—from gifted to severely challenged. An ASD begins before the age of three and lasts throughout a person’s life.”

Autism is four times more likely to affect boys than girls, and is found in all racial, ethnic, and social groups. There is no known single cause for autism, although the best available science points to important genetic components. Through twin studies, scientists have determined that autism is a genetically based condition. If one identical (monozygotic) twin has autism then there is an 80-90 per cent chance that the other twin will also be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. For non-identical (dizygotic) twins the chance is about 3-10 per cent that both twins will develop autism spectrum disorder. The chance that siblings will both be affected by ASD is also about 3-10 per cent.

What signs should they look out for?
Every child is different and develops at his or her own pace. However, there are specific developmental milestones that all children should be reaching by specific ages. The early indicators of autism are:

If your child is two months old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behaviour:
Doesn’t respond to loud sounds, doesn’t watch things as they move, doesn’t smile at people, doesn’t bring his/her hands to mouth, can’t hold his/her head up when pushing up on tummy.

If your child is four months old, you should consider talking to your doctor, if your child exhibits the following behaviour:
Doesn’t watch things as they move, doesn’t smile at people, can’t hold his/her head steady, doesn’t make sounds, doesn’t bring things to his/her mouth, doesn’t push down with legs when feet are placed on a hard surface, has trouble moving one or both eyes in all directions.

If your child is six months old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behaviour:
Doesn’t reach for things, shows no affection for caregivers, doesn’t respond to sounds around her/him, doesn’t make vowel sounds (eh, ah, oh), doesn’t laugh or squeal, seems unusually stiff or unusually floppy.

If your child is nine months old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behaviour:
Doesn’t look where you point, doesn’t respond to his/her own name, doesn’t babble (mama, dada), doesn’t play back and forth type games, doesn’t seem to recognise familiar people, doesn’t sit with help, doesn’t bear weight on legs with support, doesn’t transfer toys from one hand to the other.

If your child is one year old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behaviour:
Doesn’t point to things, doesn’t learn gestures like waving bye bye, or shaking head yes or no, doesn’t search for things that she sees you hide, doesn’t say single words like mama, dada, up, bye, this, that, juice, doesn’t crawl, does skills he/she once had, can’t stand when supported.

If your child is 18 months old, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behaviour:
Doesn’t point to show things to others, doesn’t know what familiar things (cup, spoon, phone) are used for, doesn’t imitate or copy others, doesn’t have at least six words, doesn’t gain new words, doesn’t notice or react when a caregiver leaves or returns, doesn’t walk, loses skills he/she once had.

If your child is two years, you should consider talking to your doctor if your child exhibits the following behavior:
Doesn’t use two-word phrases (mama up, want milk), doesn’t know what familiar things (cup, spoon, phone) are used for, doesn’t imitate actions and words, doesn’t follow simple instructions, doesn’t walk steadily, loses skills he/she once had.

What should parents do when they notice the signs?
​ When parents notice signs of autism it is important they request for an Autism screening from the hospital, The Lagos State Teaching Hospital now has a child and adolescent clinic that can assist parents with concern.

What are the treatment options available?
Early diagnosis of ASD, coupled with swift and effective intervention, is paramount to achieving the best possible prognosis for the child. Even at ages as young as six months, diagnosis of ASD is possible. Regular screenings by pediatric psychiatrists are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), even if your child is not diagnosed with an ASD before the age of three.

The most effective treatments available today are applied behavioral analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and pharmacological therapy. Treatment works to minimize the impact of the core features and associated deficits of ASD and to maximize functional independence and quality of life.

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1 Comment
  • amador kester

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