- Yukta Chopra
Dealing with an Autism Diagnosis
When information relating to health is released to you, (be it physical, cognitive or a psychosocial development disorder) learning about the disorder and accepting it is just the first step. What follows after are steps to improvement. These steps are often difficult and need commitment; of time, energy and money.
Coping with a disorder comes with daunting demands, or at least, that is what’s believed to be. We’d like to introduce a series that talks about coping with various disorders and build a community that’s resonating and supportive.
Learning about the Autism Spectrum Disorders
ASDs are communication, social, and behavioural challenges faced by children or adults living with autism. It’s called a spectrum because of the ranges that exist within the broader understanding of the disorder.
The spectrum includes Autistic disorder (and their different levels), Asperger's syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS). A non-official medical term called High-Functioning Autism addresses people with higher levels of physical, behavioural and cognitive functions than most individuals in the spectrum.
Autism could be a result of either having a member in the immediate family with autism, a genetic disorder, being born to older parents, low birth weight, metabolic imbalance, and being exposed to a viral infection at birth. However, autism isn’t caused by any kind of vaccination (if that’s something you’ve read or heard before).
The DSM scientific manual (published under American Psychiatric Association) is followed by most clinical professionals.
The manual suggests that autistic disorders are developmental disorders that show symptoms in early childhood (between 12-24 months).
Early signs include- delay in social development or picking up language skills.
This leads to challenges like communication, showing interests, sharing emotions, and maintaining full conversations.
In some cases, maintaining eye contact, having trouble with non-verbal communication or even responding to other’s emotional state of mind or body language is laborious for the child. Sometimes, a child that seems to be building a vocabulary will forget words taught easily.
The child may also show signs of repetitive and restricted patterns of behaviour. Some like sticking to strict routines will have repeated movements in motions and speech patterns. Things like losing focus while doing an activity, getting agitated and having negative reactions to specific sounds and having fixed interests in limited activities. There are inspiring stories of how people with fixed interests have made successful careers out of it. It’s a matter of patiently discovering these interests.
In a lot of cases, individuals are diagnosed much later, like in their teens or in their adulthood. Autism does not have a cure but there are practices that can be followed (at any stage) to improve the individual’s life.
Coping with Autism Spectrum Disorders
In the beginning, we had mentioned that accepting the result of the diagnosis is a part of the process.
For parents, if your child has been diagnosed with any of the ASD’s, it’s important to realise that this was under no one’s control. It’s neither yours nor the child’s ‘fault.’ You should remember that there is plenty of help available for your child and you. It is just a matter of seeking it.
It’s important to acknowledge the child’s emotional and communication difficulties and take the initiative to work towards improvement. It’s a slow process that doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s something that needs to be accepted before anything. Another thing to accept is that; you need to give your body and mind the time it needs.
To cope with the challenges and symptoms, there are various ways you can seek help:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
CBT is for both children and adults; who experience anxiety, depression because of which there’s a lot of social isolation. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps with changing unhelpful ways of thinking towards the problem, changing patterns of behaviour and reducing stress. CBT is also found to help both ASD and OCD symptoms in people.
For a child struggling with their speech, it’s important for the parent to recognise what professional help can do for them. A speech therapist will construct different exercises, like how to moderate pitch or improve reading and writing ability and dealing with different speech impairments. Apart from speech therapy, vocational therapy can also come of help.
Oftentimes we forget how individual ASDs can be. No one person shows similar symptoms to the other. Depending on the severity of the situation, a nurse could design different methods to help cope with the disorder. We need to remember what’s important. It is to provide them with the best kind of help rather than ignoring their needs of the social stigma that comes with seeking any kind of help.
With the help of a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist or a psychiatrist, the right kind of medication can be prescribed to help with anxiety, depression, and a lot of times, insomnia.
A place like ASARE provides individuals with the right kind of care and therapy. For people with a recent diagnosis, the same suggestions apply. Joining a support group, finding comfort in friends and family and receiving regular therapy is important. Again, therapy is not available only for the person dealing with the disorder but for someone who is helping too. Let’s work towards building comfortable lives for them, and we can start by seeking professional help and instead of stigmatising the help, we can receive.