Autism Spectrum Disorders: Your Questions Answered
What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?
The term “Autism” has been expanded into “Autism Spectrum Disorders” (ASD), which is a group of brain developmental disorders characterized by challenges in communication and social interaction along with persistent repetitive behaviors. There are a wide variety of symptoms and severity across the spectrum, ranging from mild challenges to interference with daily life. Currently, 1 in 160 children worldwide has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Do childhood vaccines cause Autism?
Current research shows that vaccines DO NOT cause Autism Spectrum Disorders, and previous studies suggesting that they did had serious flaws and are not accepted by the medical community. The exact cause of Autism Spectrum Disorders is unknown, however genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role.
How are Autism Spectrum Disorders diagnosed?
There is currently no specific medical test to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorders. Parents, caregivers and school teachers are thus advised to remain alert about any unusual behaviors in children that might be signs of a developmental disorder. These behaviors include a child playing with toys in unusual, restricted and repetitive ways; failing to respond to his/her name or failing to make eye contact. If any of these signs are noted, please alert your child’s primary care doctor. A list of questions called the M-CHAT (Modified Checklist of Autism in Toddlers) will be performed to indicate if he/she will need further evaluation by a specialist.
What treatment options exist?
Each individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder is unique, and so intervention needs to be tailored to address their specific needs. These interventions include behavioral treatments and structured therapeutic activities that target the areas affected by the disorder. Some interventions also involve a child’s entire family, under direct supervision of therapists and specialists. Adolescents can also receive transition services to assist them with maturation into adulthood.
Can a child ever “outgrow” an Autism Spectrum Disorder?
There is currently no cure for an Autism Spectrum Disorder, however evidence suggests that some children “outgrow” their diagnosis. This has been shown to occur in some children who were initially incorrectly diagnosed, or who had higher IQs at diagnosis or were initially diagnosed with milder forms of ASD. Some children who received early communication skills and intensive therapy have also been shown to “lose” their ASD diagnosis, but further research is needed before it can be conclusively determined that a child can “outgrow” an ASD.
Are there Autism Spectrum Disorder resources or support services in Lagos?
Yes, there are a number of NGOs and a few schools for Autistic children in Lagos. Please see your primary care doctor for more information on how to access these resources.
Today APRIL 2ND IS WORLD AUTISM DAY – wear BLUE to show support for World Autism Awareness Day, and tag #LIUB (Light It Up Blue) on social media!
Keeping you healthy,
Dr. Sade Adeyi MD, MPH
@yourprimarydoc on Instagram and Twitter
Sources: Autism Speaks, WHO