World Autism Awareness Day is observed every year on April 2 to draw attention to the struggles that people with autism face regularly. Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a lifelong developmental disability that affects a person’s social skills, communication, behavior, and relationships. It typically starts from early childhood and affects every individual differently. Although there is no single cause for autism, early diagnosis allows a child to obtain the care and treatment they need. 

Signs and Symptoms:

Typically symptoms of autism are observed before a child turns 3. Some people even show signs from birth.

Common symptoms of autism are:

  • Lack of eye contact
  • Limited range of interest 
  • Overly strong interest in certain topics
  • Repetitive actions such as saying the same words again and again or rocking back and forth
  • High sensitivity to sounds, touches, smells, or sights that other people consider normal
  • Ignoring other people
  • Not looking at things when another person points at them
  • Not wanting to be held or cuddled
  • Having difficulty understanding or using words, gestures, expressions, or tone
  • Using a sing-song, flat, or robotic tone 
  • Having difficulty adjusting to changes in routine
  • Seizures are also a risk for children with autism, although they may not start until adolescence

Diagnosis

Since there is no medical examination for ASD, such as a blood test, diagnosing this condition can be difficult. To make a diagnosis, doctors examine the child’s behavior and growth.

ASD can be diagnosed as early as 18 months of age. By the age of two, an experienced professional’s diagnosis can be considered very accurate. Many children, however, do not obtain a definitive diagnosis until they are much older. 

Autism in Bangladesh:

A study from 2018 examined autism in a rural community in Bangladesh and found that the prevalence of autism was 0.75/1,000 in children aged between 18–36 months. The highest prevalence rate was found for children with cerebral palsy, which was 5.6/1,000 children, and next was children with delayed development, which was 2.6/1,000. 

In another 2016 study of all age groups by the Ministry of Social Welfare of Bangladesh, autism was found to represent 19% of total neurological disabilities recorded.

Treatment:

Currently, no treatment or cure exists for autism. Early detection and intervention, however, have been shown to improve a child’s growth. 

Early detection is essential as it enables families to take immediate action to improve their child’s health and quality of life.

Early intervention programs and therapy for children up to 3 years old help them learn important skills like speaking, walking, and interacting with others.

If you think your child has ASD, or if there is an issue with the way he or she plays, reads, talks, or behaves, talk with your child’s doctor or a specialist about your concerns.

A child with autism is often referred to by the term “special child.” Yes, they are special, and they need special support and care to foster their special skills or abilities. With the right nurturing, encouragement, education, and commitment, their talents can be nurtured and they can live a life of identity, respect, and honor.

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