By Nasir Geelani
IN This age of Computers and technology, where every moment we glance at screens the problems of social communication and problems in responding to the stimuli in one’s environment has come to forefront. Even though, we keep on complaining each other for the social connection we have lost, however, the main concern with respect to problems in social exchanges is with kids and children. The debate is not that screens can solely be a causative factor for such communication problems but the fact is excessive use of screen in kids before language development or during language development, which is roughly upto 4-5 years, can precipitate such problems. As excessive use of screen greatly affects development of social brain and social brain is developed through real time social exchanges. Such disorders which affect a person’s social communication, interaction with environment and other related symptoms comes under category of autism spectrum disorders.
Autism spectrum disorders where previously a separate disorders, however, Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-V) brought them under the general category of Autism spectrum disorders. Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder or disability that can cause significant, social, communicaton and behavioural changes in the person. The ASD kids don’t look different from other kids like down’s syndrome, but the sufferers may communicate, behave, interact and learn very differently from normal people. The abilities of learning, thinking, and problem solving skills of children or adults with ASD can range from severely challenged to gifted.
DSM 5 classifies autism into three levels as:
Level 1: High functioning autism: It includes people who have problem with social communication. Sufferers with level 1 autism, Have challenges with social interactions, struggle Have difficulties in creating new relationships and respond in eccentric manners to social challenges perceived by others as awkward). Cognitive and language abilities may not be impaired, but interactions with others are somehow odd and typically unsuccessful. This closely resembles aspergers syndrome before 2013 DSM classifications. It is also sometimes called social communication disorder.
Level 2: This is very close to what was earlier called classic autism, These person’s have evident challenges with both verbal and non- verbal communication, social interaction, very awkward response to challenging social situations when met and a narrow span of interests. These people are inflexible, change resistant, having repetitive movements and patterns that limit the possibility of that person to operate smoothly in most contexts even sometimes at home. If any change in routine is found it is welcomed with great distress and anxiety. These people require a lot of support for social life. They sometimes have outstanding abilities and memories like the photo graphic memory of A surgeon in the famous show “the good doctor”.
Level 3: Its also known as low functioning autism, it is the severe face of autism which impairs all areas of patient’s functioning, from social to language and cognitive abilities. In these people social activity is very limited, speech is basic and is difficult to understand. It is most disabling level of autism. These sufferers require substantial and constant support in life.
Some common symptoms for a common person to understand the autism:
- Not pointing fingers at objects they show interest in
- Won’t usually look at objects when another person like mother would point at them or turn her vision at any object.
- Not relating or having less interest in other kids
- High threshold for pain, Low threshold for visual and auditory stimuli
- Remaining alone and not making eye contact. Doesn’t demand personal attention.
- Lacking empathy or not being able to understand other person’s perspective or feeling himself in his shoes that is why such persons have problems in learning because most of times we learn vicariously.
- Such people don’t like touch or being cuddled.
- Repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
- They have trouble in expressing their needs by using typical words or motions
- not play “pretend” games. For example, kids simulate adult actions and tasks in their play.
- have trouble adapting when a routine changes
- have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
- lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)
Such kids are usually diagnosed at 18 months till or before 4 years, also depending on the level of autism as classified by DSM 5. The diagnosis is tough as it can’t be detected typically by blood tests and only a qualified mental health professional can diagnose it.
Advice to parents:
This advice is helpful for every parent regardless of they having a kid suffering from ASD.
- Autism cannot be completely treated because it is a neuro-developmental disorder, however, it can be managed to a very much effective level and when management is started in infancy the results are promising.
- One of the important factors that keeps living organisms especially mammals alive is stimulation and stroking which starts which ranges from physical touching to verbal or non verbal stimulation. Here, we can refer back to the intro of this article, the use of screens deprives infants of this social stimulation and can be detrimental for a child who is autistic and problematic like delayed language even among normal children. The screen should be minimized as much as possible and kids should be involved in social intercourses. Parents can even Make the screen time , which is unavoidable, engaging by interacting with their kid about the content on screen.
- Parents with a kid having ASD, should have arsenal of knowledge to deal with kids problematic behavior. Literate parents, can make use of internet, read self help books on autism, use YouTube and become creative for engaging an autistic kid.
- Remember even though there is a general criteria for ASD as shown above as per the levels, however, each individual child is different from another and parents need to understand their kids in their own unique ways.
- As mentioned kids with ASD like schedules, so include engaging activities in their daily routines.
- Last but not least, if you can detect any signs consult a qualified mental health professional or specially mental health professional trained in childhood disorders or ASD.
“The difference between high-functioning and low-functioning autism is that high-functioning means your deficits are ignored, and low- functioning means your assets are ignored.” – Laura Tisoncik
Views expressed in the article are the author's own responsibility and are not a substitute for professional medical advice. These are for educational purposes only.
- The author is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. His motto is if we can train animals, what stops us from training human beings”
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