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FAQs on Autism

By Dr. Shambhavi Seth in Child Development Clinic

Apr 02 , 2021 | 4 min read

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  1. My child can speak words and can even sing rhymes; can he still be diagnosed with Autism?

Yes. Autism spectrum disorder is a disorder of communication and it’s not merely a speech delay. A child with autism may not respond to his name or follow instructions and the same child may be able to sing rhymes or name colors or alphabets. This is because the child probably has been exposed to most of the time to these words which he has learned and at this stage is merely repeating the words without a clear understanding of its meaningful usage. 

  1. My child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will he speak? 

A child with autism though may present with a delay in speaking meaningful words but impairment of communication is the hallmark. With proper interventions, the child learns to communicate first- making eye contact, attending and engaging in activities with parents, following instructions. Once these skills are in place, the work is done on expressive language which is speech. Most of the cases presenting are of milder range and with proper early interventions, they are able to gain basic speech in most cases and advanced language skills too. But it may be noted there may be a small number who may remain nonverbal.  An individualized targeted plan is extremely essential and regular follow-up on time to time basis of the skills achieved should be done with trained professionals.  

  1. My child has ASD can he or she attend mainstream regular school? 

Any child in whom autism is suspected or has presented with language delays and deviancies should be started on interventions and a stimulation plan. It may not be possible to label with a clear diagnosis in all cases but action should not be delayed. Many children who receive timely interventions do show good school readiness skills and are able to adjust in mainstream inclusive schooling.  A detailed school readiness assessment can be carried out by trained professionals before enrolment. The Right to Education Act and Person with Disabilities Act has empowered families to seek admission in mainstream school set up.  There may be few children who would require support services that are to be integrated into the regular school setup so that education remains inclusive. 

  1. Do all children diagnosed with autism have mental subnormality? 

Mental subnormality or mental retardation as it was previously called is not part and parcel of Autism spectrum disorder. In fact, child with autism may have above average cognitive skills and good memory but they are impaired in social communication skills. Only 30 percent of children with autism will have Intellectual disabilities. 

  1. Why did my child develop autism, was I not a good parent?

The reason, why autism spectrum disorders develop in one child and not in another, is still poorly understood. Researchers have implicated certain genes which predispose one to this disorder. Some environmental factors like heavy metals, pollution, chemicals are also being studied. The myth that any parenting style may lead to autism is to be dismissed. But it should be noted that a stimulating environment where a child has opportunities to bond and nurture interactions is equally important for age-appropriate development to take place. So exposure to mobile phones or any other screen in this digital age should be strictly not encouraged for any child below 18 months of age.  

  1. The entire tests during pregnancy were normal then how autism was missed in my child? 

Since the reason why autism develops is still not clearly understood, no investigations            (blood or scans) are available to diagnose it at any time before or after birth. There are certain genetic disorders that may present like autism and tests are available for that. These are specific and routine antenatal tests done in pregnancy do not cover them. An expert opinion is required before going for these tests. 

  1. Should we avoid vaccination for my child since he has been diagnosed with ASD? 

Vaccinations are essential to prevent life-threatening diseases. Their association in causing autism has not been established.  Indian Academy of Pediatrics and other international academies support that vaccinations should be given to children with autism. 

  1. What are the chances of having my other child with ASD, if my older one has one? 

Autism has a genetic linkage but the exact gene causing it has not been established till now. Currently, almost 8-16 % chances are there of having autism in a second child is already one child is affected. But it may also be noted that early interventions help in modifying the course of Autism. Even if a child is at risk of it, being watchful of early signs and early stimulation will help.

  1. Can Autism be cured with therapies like homeopathy, acupuncture, or stem cell transplant?

Autism cannot be cured but the course of the disorder can be modified and the child can be made to learn skills through appropriate professional guidance. Therapies like stem cells, acupuncture, and homeopathy yet have not had good research backing to support their use in children with autism. Some of them can do more harm than good and one should be fully informed before taking it up.