Autism: Living in my world

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LIVING IN MY WORLD
As the world celebrates World Autism Day today (April 2), Olaife our Communication’s Officer shares this story.

That word sounds bizarre or is it the action now or perhaps the inaction on the part of the sufferer/patient. Seemingly a bit amusing at first observation of the uncharacteristic motions exhibited.Then you tell it to that man on the street and he goes “I beg your pardon” and one can’t help but wonder if the word does exist at all.

AUTISM! About 1 percent of the world population has this disorder. Research suggests that employers are missing out on abilitiesthat people with this spectrum have in greater abundance than “neurotypical” workers do – such as, heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning, as well as greater attention to details.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the world’s third most common development disorder. Some of the latest studies suggest its sharp rise globally.It can be categorized as a complex neurological disorder with an unknown cause  that involves a person having impaired social interaction, communication and learning difficulties as well as behavioral issues.It is associated with the brain’s development affecting the processing of information, development of skills and regulation of bodily actions and senses.Autism is seen as heritable and a few studies suggest that lack of proper oxygen supply to the fetus’s developing brain may trigger the condition. Symptoms may be seen to surface right during infancy or early childhood and generally establishes itself once a child enters his/her second or third year then becomes much more prominent.

Keeping in mind is a key factor of the fact that every autistic person differs from one another and has his/her own idiosyncratic characteristics. In simpler words, an autistic child has a unique condition wherein the senses as well as the development of various skills are not in sync. This disparity may lead to a situation where a child may have rapidly developed cognitive skills while language, social or motor skills may lag behind or vice-versa.  Some maybe excessively sensitive to noise, light or smell whereas some may find social interaction or communication quite challenging.

Research also reveals that the disorder may be more pronounced in others some of which are: display of indifference, little or no eye contact, communication difficulties like delayed speech and social aloofness,Inappropriate laughing or giggling,sensitivity to sounds, textures, smells,engages in repetitive behavior,repeated clapping, ticking, rocking, skin picking, self-poking etc. unusual attachments to certain objects and finding it most difficult to accept change.

Ordinarily parenting an autistic child is a challenging task. Identifying symptoms at the earliest may help to some extent. Lack of gestural or verbal activity in newborns should be taken into observation. If an infant shows no signs of babbling or gesturing by a year or finds it difficult to form words or phrases by the age of two, parents should consult a pediatrician immediately.Since there is no medical cure for autism; this makes the condition a lifetime ailment and exerts a lot of mental and emotional courage, optimism, patience and of course, acceptance from the parents.

An expert explained that autism should be addressed and managed differently for different children. “Some children may exhibit highly aggressive behavior; hence they need to be handled differently as compared to others. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) should also be followed wherein every child has an individualized educational programme which would teach variety of skills including social,communication,academic,occupational and self-help.The expert also suggested psychological, behavioral, speech and language therapy.

It has however been observed that specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of autism especially here in Nigeria is significantly absent but be that as it may some schools are now located in focal areas to address this issue in ensuring that they eventually live normal and independent lives becoming useful to themselves and the society after being able to clear the hurdle of possible unemployment and discrimination

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Article by Olaife Ilori

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