Interesting news today, as studies suggest that Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children may be spotted early. Not by doctors, but by their grandmother. For young children, early treatment is key. Grannies word might make all the difference.
Granny’s keen eye for Autism
ASD is a tricky diagnosis and often is based on the parent’s concerns over the child’s social and interaction abilities, alongside sophisticated tests. Definitive diagnosis is not given after a single visit with the health professionals, as behaviour must be studied over time. Standard minimum age for diagnosis is at 2 years of age, as CDC states that diagnosing a child at the age is both reliable and valid.
The earlier the diagnosis of ASD, the better it is for the child. Half a year difference can make a big change for treatment. GPs may have difficulty finding a problem because they can only work with the constellation of symptoms that the child comes in and presents with, and this is often very difficult especially if speech has not fully developed1. In short, ASD may not be apparent for short visits or early on.
New studies suggest the importance of grandmother and grandchild relationship in early detection of ASD. Parents may miss signs as they are ‘too close’ and unwilling to realise a problem. Grandparents have both a distance and experience to spot difficulties earlier. With early diagnosis important, Granny is best placed to help.
What is autism?
Humans are social animals. We live in a society where new relationships are made and broken, within a blink. Individual’s behavioural traits allow them to interact with other people. In essence, the combination of social behaviour and characteristics almost makes an individual who they are. So what about those with autism?
Primarily speaking, people with autism have some degree of difficulty in social situations. This can vary from having poor social skills but with advanced academic abilities as well as communication skills; to those who are completely dependent on others, and presents repetitive, almost obsessive behaviours. This can be damaging to self as well as those around them. Other conditions such as epilepsy and ADHD can co-occur with autism2.
1 in 160 children have ASD worldwide, and this is most likely an underestimate. Countries that lack resources and have economical challenges are likely to underestimate the true value, with less attention on the need for diagnosing ASD. Multifactorial causes are still indefinite; with genetic and environmental factors both contributing (but NOT vaccine-related, despite the common stigma)3.
There is no wonder-drug that is in use for ASD treatment. But various behavioural treatment and skills training is available. Again, the younger the child, better the outcome. Such treatments can have an immense beneficial effect on the quality of life. Associated disorders such as stomach-related conditions can be medically dealt with, but perhaps the most important and beneficial treatment is an early diagnosis, and change in the social stigma for a more inclusive community.
- Committee on Children with Disabilities. The pediatrician’s role in the diagnosis and management of autistic spectrum disorder in children. Pediatrics. 2001 May 1;107(5):1221-6.