Autism as explained by Dr. Deepak Gupta

Dr. Deepak Gupta (Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, MD, DNB, DCAP (London, UK)

What is Autism?

Autism is a term, which you may have heard many times. It is a broader term used to describe a group of neurodevelopmental disorders. It's a medical condition that involves both the brain and the body. It is also known as a complex, lifelong developmental disability, which one can normally see in the early years of childhood, and this can impact their social, communication skills as well as their self-regulatory abilities. There is often nothing that is different in terms of how they look, but they may communicate, behave, interact and learn in different ways than other people do.

There are three specific areas around which autism can be diagnosed :

  • Social areas.
  • Communication areas.
  • Behaviour of the person.

How prevalent is Autism in India?

At this point, in India, over 1 crore people in India are autistic, which means, approximately, 1-2 out of every 100th kid in the country may have conditions of autism. It is found to be more prevalent in boys than in girls. It has also been found that 1 out of every 8th child has a neurodevelopmental condition.

Signs of Autism

Many people believe that only after a child has reached the age group of 3-5 years, only then symptoms of autism can be identified. This is not true. We can try and diagnose symptoms of autism in a 9-month-old baby also. Autism can range from mild to very serious and occur in all age groups, whether socio-economic or ethnic. There are various signs of autism, and the red alert signs of autism may be identified as follows -

Social Areas

  • Poor eye-contact - If the kid is not making proper eye-contact, it means that the child is suffering from autism.
  • Poor name response - If the kid is not responding to his/her name, it means that their response is poor.
  • Involved in oneself - Often times, you’ll hear parents say that their kid is busy with himself, this means that somewhere, he is socially withdrawn. If the kid doesn't interact with others and is self-absorbed, it means that he/she is autistic.

These are three aspects that are considered as most important in the social domain.

Communication Areas

  • Speech Delay - Frequently the speech of these kids is delayed for up to even 2-2.5 years of age. Even if they start speaking, there are chances that they may forget their language or social skills. This is commonly known as regression.
  • Difficulty in communication - Other kids easily point towards or turn towards things when they see something exciting. Kids with autism generally are not able to pin point towards things or objects. When the child lacks this ability, or he/she takes your hand and puts it on that object, this is also known as a red alert sign.

Behavioural Areas

  • Repeated Behaviour - Kids with autism develop a few specific interests, which they keep doing repeatedly. You will be able to see it with toys, they will line them up in a straight line or instead of playing with toys, they may keep playing parts of the toys or they keep looking at moving things such as fans, etc. They are attracted towards a few particular things/activities.
  • Sensory Issues - Kids with autism have problems with sounds. They get easily irritated with loud noises, keep smelling things or keep moving things. When they are irritated, they will either cover their ears, keep smelling things or put things in their mouth, etc.

Whether the child is a year old, 2 years, or maybe more, if these symptoms are there at any age, we need to go for an immediate consultation.

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