Every person experiences their health condition or disease in a very specific way, and certain conditions have a lot more range than others. Since April is Autism Awareness Month, let’s learn the basics of what autism is, how it can be experienced, and how it is managed and treated.
What is Autism?
Autism is a brain disorder characterized by difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions and repetitive behavior. There is a disconnection between different areas of the brain, resulting in some of the symptoms described in the next section. Autism is also referred to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which speaks to the large range of unique strengths and impairments. Autism could mean you fall into the third of nonverbal autistic people, the third of autistic people with an intellectual disability or anywhere on the very large range of ways this disorder can be experienced. While there can be severe impairments, this is often present along with normal abilities. It is also possible that an autistic person may possess superior or savant abilities.
Autism typically becomes apparent early, before age three. Immediate or early detection and diagnosis can make a big difference in ensuring proper treatment and training for the individual to achieve maximum autonomy. An autistic person will likely always have a degree of difficulty relating to others
Different symptoms could be more specific to childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Behavioral therapy and medication will address different needs at different stages, as recommended by doctors and specialists.
Autism can exhibit symptoms that include the following:
- Troubled sleep
- Bladder & bowel issues
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Difficulty with balance, movement and walking
- Repetitive movement (body rocking, hand flapping)
- Ritualistic behavior or resistance to change in norms or routine
- Compulsive behavior like checking locks or washing hands
Autism Treatment & Management
While there is no cure for autism, the goal is early diagnosis so that proper, tailored treatment strategies can be implemented. Ideally, this begins in childhood so that and is modified according to development and aging. Behavioral therapy is an important part of helping people with autism to practice self-help, social skills and communication, among other aspects. Depending on individual needs, speech, occupational and physical therapy are other specific therapies that could provide help with more specialized areas.
Medication is often a part of autism treatment, and the type and dosage is dependent on the individual’s symptoms, needs, and the doctor’s recommendations. Antidepressants, stimulants, and antipsychotics are among the most commonly prescribed autism medication. Effective medication and behavioral therapy work together for the goal of best quality of life and the greatest degree of independence possible.