A baby is not just a bundle of joy, but holds a very special place of pride in the hearts of its parents. And why not! Since even the tiniest of gestures that a baby makes, is gushed and spoken about with immense excitement by its parents. Now imagine how difficult it must be to cope with the fact that a baby has a developmental disorder like Autism. It’s really hard for parents to come to face in terms of what befalls their child in future.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or commonly referred to as simply Autism, is defined as a spectrum of related disorders (which are closely related) all of which have a shared set of core symptoms. Normally autism in a child shows up as noticeable problems in communication, relational equations, thought-process and behaviour.
Medical researchers are of the opinion that even though completely confirmed diagnosis of autism can be done only after 24 months, early signs of it can be seen in babies as early as 3 months.
Possible Causes Of Autism:
Extensive research has shown that this disorder is not just due to a genetic vulnerability but the external environment it is being exposed to while in the womb and soon after birth contributes to its advancement. So it is not just external pollutants that are to be blamed but the prenatal environment that the baby is exposed to, that play an important role.
Prenatal factors like:
1. Inadequate nutrition in the pregnant woman,
2. Inadequate Folic Acid intake,
3. Consumption of antidepressants in the first trimester,
4. Age factor of the couple involved,
5. Any maternal infections encountered,
6. Exposure to pollutants like chemicals in metal or paint, and
7. Complications during childbirth which can also include neonatal anaemia and low birth weight,
significantly contribute in a negative manner towards autism.
Milestones Hold The Key To Diagnosis:
As a parent, you tend to spend more time with your baby than your baby’s paediatrician. So it is important for you to monitor the baby’s growth and development milestones, so that any early signs detected can actually be helpful to your paediatrician to suggest corrective actions and treatment. In short the symptoms can be reversed and the baby’s brain can be literally rewired if diagnosed at an early stage.
For A 3 Month Old Baby:
Ideally the baby should
3. Look attentively at new faces,
4. Follow any moving object with its eyes,
5. Try to grasp or hold objects and
6. Show response to loud noises.
Parents should constantly look out for these milestones.
For Babies Older Than 6 Months:
The baby should
1. Make loud squealing and laughing noises,
2. Be affectionate towards people it recognises on a daily basis,
3. Look around to locate the source of a sound that it hears,
4. Make an effort to seek attention,
5. Reach out for objects around it,
6. Smile a lot, and
7. Should show interest in simple games like, say peekaboo.
For Babies Older Than 12 Months:
These babies should
1. Be able to crawl around,
2. Wave their hands in a gesture, like they are saying a goodbye,
3. Be able to stand with support,
4. Point to objects and say a few basic words like mommy, daddy etc.
For Babies Older Than 24 Months:
Babies will be more independent and will be more talkative as well.
1. Be able to talk close to 20 words,
2. Be good at imitating your simple actions,
3. Be knowledgeable about simple usages of objects, like what a spoon is used for, or for that matter, a telephone,
4. Be able to form two-letter words with ease,
5. Push and pull a wheeled toy and also
6. Be able to understand simple instructions that you give, like to stand up or sit down, jump, clap etc.
Upon observing any developmental delay, parents should seek medical intervention without any hesitation, since quite a lot of further negative development can be averted by taking quick steps in treating it at an early stage. In short a coordinated effort is required to tackle this disorder.
It is largely seen that Autism is considered as a matter of social disgrace and people affected by it tend to either ignore it due to the kind of stigma attached to it, or for the lack of understanding. Society should come forward and make an effort to understand it in a better way.
A pregnant woman needs a happy and healthy environment to nurture the new life (or lives) growing inside her and for that she should have all possible care that is needed. Likewise a baby should not miss out any kind of medical help, scheduled checks, prescribed vaccines, etc to ensure that it grows to lead a happy life. As a parent, it is our duty and responsibility to do it with due dedication.
Let’s always hope that every baby that is born gets to lead a happy life ahead.