Can’t your child communicate properly?
Does he or she avoid other children?
Is your kid behaving oddly or is he/she seems frustrated all the time?
Parents! Your child may have autism. Parenting a little human with autism is very challenging. In certain cases, it can be overwhelming. Kids with autism don’t behave like other neurotypical or NT children. Autistic kids don’t play or communicate and display frustrating, upsetting, and confusing behaviors. Simultaneously, autistic children have their own set of strengths and abilities which gradually emerge with the help of parents, seniors, teachers, psychologists, and others. Hence, it is debatable if the parenting style causes autism.
Why are kids born with autism?
Before we jump into why kids are born with autism, let’s check an estimation:
As per an estimation, 1 in 160 children worldwide has ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder. In 2018, the US Center for Disease Control has done an estimation in which it was stated that 1 out of 59 children has ASD. More specifically, it was 1 in 37 boys, and 1 in 151 girls. In 2016, it was 1 in 68 children showing a 14% increase. In 2012, it was 1 in 88 showing a 47% increase. Earlier in the 1980s, the prevalence of autism was 4 in 10,000. Then, in the 1990s, the prevalence of autistic kids was 1 in 2,500 and later it became 1 in 1,000.
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder, or, in short, Autism refers to a neurodevelopmental disorder often appearing in infancy or early childhood. In typical cases, the first signs of autism can be diagnosed when a child is between 12-18 months. The symptoms of Autisms happen in varying degrees in different people with respect to the severity. It is a spectrum disorder.
Each individual has a distinct set of strengths and challenges, and needs. Some kids require intense support, whereas others need less help and can live independently. Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD is related to difficulties with respect to:
- Social skills
- Delayed language development
- Poor motor skills
- Delay in speech learning
- Absence of sensory sensitivities
- Repetitive behavior
- Difficulties in executing tasks that involve analytical and cognitive skills
- Restricted interests
- Impaired social interaction
- Impaired communication
Note: It is found in studies that boys are 4 times more vulnerable to autism than girls. World Health Organization reported that 1 in 68 children throughout the world have ASD. Minimum 70 million people worldwide are suffering from autism. Out of it, 10 million are from India.
What causes autism:
No single cause is there for Autism Spectrum Disorder. In a general sense, certain abnormalities in brain structure and functions can cause autism. Brain scan displays the differences between the neurotypical kids and autistic kids’ structure and shape of the brain. Researches are still being executed to investigate various theories like medical issues, heredity, and genetics with respect to autism.
A pattern of autism and its related disabilities have been observed in many families. The theory stating autism has a genetic basis is made stronger by this observation.
In another observation, no one gene could be identified by the researchers as the cause of autism. Hence, the search is still on concerning irregular segments of genetic code that may have inherited by autistic children. Again, it appeared in the research that few kids are born with susceptibility or proneness to autism. Yet, any single trigger hasn’t been identified.
Another set of researchers are keen to investigate the possibility of interference of a cluster of genes with brain development causing autism.
Additionally, there are researchers who are investigating environmental factors like exposure to chemicals, metabolic imbalances, viral infections, and certain stages like pregnancy or delivery with respect to the susceptibility of autism.
In short, autism can be caused by:
- Genetic Vulnerability:
Individuals having certain medical conditions inclusive of X syndrome, congenital rubella syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, and untreated phenylketonuria (PKU) tend to have autism. Certain harmful substances consumed or ingested during pregnancy is linked to the growing risk of autism.
Environmental risk factors:
Many environmental influences can increase or reduce the risk of autism, especially in people genetically prone to the disorder.
Let’s take a look at the increased risk factors:
- Advanced age of parent (either one)
- Complications in pregnancy or birth like extreme prematurity before 26 weeks, multiple pregnancies like a triplet, twin, etc., low birth weight, etc.
- Repeated pregnancy in less than one year.
Can parenting style cause autism?
Parenting style is crucial in parent-child interaction. Parental control demonstrates the desires and values of parents for integrating several cultural and societal contexts in their kids.
Parental control can be divided into three kinds of parenting style dimensions:
- Acceptance versus rejection
- Psychological control versus autonomy
- Firm control versus lax control
Each parenting style dimension brings out unique results in shaping the psychological development of children.
Parenting in ASD:
Kanner’s theory states that mothers can be blamed for autism in their children. A refrigerator mother who is cold and unemotional is observed to bring kids with autism. Bettelheim in ‘The Empty Fortress’ chosen to take up a psychoanalytical approach. He described the way parental insensitivity and rejection during early development can restrict the infants’ self-development. The kids are likely to develop growing social withdrawal.
But, the concept of refrigerator mother was highly criticized and finally rejected. Scientific empirical support couldn’t be found for the concept that mothers can cause autism in children. Again, it was not scientifically proved that refrigerator mothers lack reflective functioning and they are very insensitive to the needs of children. It is widely accepted worldwide that mothers are not directly the cause of autism in their children.
Nevertheless, children having ASD are intimate parts of a family system. Within that system, parents control or manage the behaviors and deficits of their children. Nowadays, they have become more and more involved in the treatment of children, and in certain cases, is the primary person to take care of the treatment delivery.
Autism in kids poses multiple distinctive challenges to the entire family system. The challenges include the growing rigidity of family schedules because of troubles with transitions experienced by autistic children. Besides, the challenges include growing social isolation experienced by fathers and mothers who can willingly or unwillingly withdraw themselves from social outings because of the behavioral problems of the kids. Continuing it, they have to carry the burden of shattering child care duties that often conflict with the work commitment of the parents resulting in a heavy impact on family finances.
It is debatable whether parenting style causes autism. But, we have coined typical parenting styles that add fuel to autism. Let’s study them in brief:
Are you stepping in every work your child is doing? Well, you are snatching away his/her opportunity of understanding what is needed, the experience of trying, cherish the success, and acquire knowledge from his/her failure.
Competitive parenting is very dangerous even for neurotypical children. You should never give a sense to your kid with our without autism that he/she is not up to par. It harms kids’ self-confidence and self-esteem drastically.
Frantically looking for therapy sessions and activities for your kids can overburden them and hinders their chances of concentrating on one learning and practicing it. Instead, have few hours of unfocused parent-child time which is calm and relaxed.
Autistic kids need your help to build their critical skills. Otherwise, they will be extremely self-focused and withdrawn. Be with them whenever they need you instead of taking off your eyes from them. But, be aware not to overstress them.
Autistic kids need more encouragement to do certain things in comparison to neurotypical children. Never ever go for ‘do whatever you want’ kind of parenting as your kid needs your direction to do things in the right way.
You have to understand their difficulties and stop pressurising them to do things perfectly. Have high expectations, but don’t make them extremely high for your babies resulting in their frustration.
Can a psychiatrist diagnose autism?
Obviously, a psychiatrist is eligible to diagnose autism. Let’s check in details:
Child and adolescent psychiatrist:
He or she is a physician specializes in diagnosis and treatment of the following:
- Disorder in feeling
- Problematic behavior
These typical factors lay influence on the children and their families.
He/she must be a Ph.D. degree holder. Different psychologists have different specialties. The professionals who can diagnose and treat kids with autism should be experienced in using psychometric evaluative measures like the ADOS-2 which is a play and conversation-based tool of assessment, and the ADI-R which refers to a caregiver interview. These two measures are referred to as gold standard evaluative measures in the case of autism.
Under psychologists, there are four types:
They provide advice to the people on the way to deal with everyday living problems for improving life quality. Again, they treat autistic kids and try to improve their everyday problems at home, community, school, etc.
They work with school students. Usually, they join forces with parents, teachers, and school staff. Also, they look after the learning and behavioral problems of students which include parental techniques and classroom management. School psychologists evaluate school students for determining the finest way for educating them inclusive of diagnosing autistic kids.
They assess, diagnose, treat, and prevent mental disorders. Also, they assess children with ASD.
They access the relation between brain and behavior. Also, they specialize in several medical conditions like ASD, etc.
What not to do with an autistic child?
This is a vital question as autistic children must be dealt with ultimate care.
The most important thing that parents must not do with autistic children is mixing them and their intellect or capabilities with other children and vice versa.
Never say these kinds of things and likes to an autistic child:
You don’t know what an autistic child is going through. Autistic-related struggles are very different from normal people’s struggles. Saying things like above is sheer insulting to a kid with ASD. Autism Research Institute says that 10% of individuals with autism have intellectual skills. Every autistic kid is not smart, and your statements can keep them doubting themselves.
Again, you must remember that if a psychiatrist has prescribed medicine to a kid with ASD, that doesn’t mean it is different from taking medicine for a disease or infection. Asking the autistic kid about medicine is quite immature on your part.
Furthering, never ever compare yourself with autistic children. Common! You are a normal mentally healthy person who should be responsible enough to progress the society rather than bring up a comparison with an individual who is struggling daily to live a normal healthy life. Study and acquire knowledge about autism and have some common sense.
To tell you, an autistic person looks exactly like any other healthy human. No physical traits make an individual appear autistic.
How late can autism develop?
Autistic symptoms typically appear in a kid’s starting 3 years of life. Few infants show signs right from birth. Others show symptoms when they reach 18-36 months.
Can autism develop later in life?
No. Older children and adults can’t develop autism.
When do autistic kids start talking?
At an average, autistic kids start talking when they reach 36 months.
Autistic kids do feel love and emotions just like a neurotypical child. They can fall in love. So, behave normally with them. As a parent, you are the closest person your child has. Respect, care, and understand them. Let them develop happily.