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Care for your child

Dr Mukta Vasal | New Delhi |

The autism spectrum disorder group can include childhood disintegrative disorder, Asperger syndrome, and autistic disorder. If the child has been diagnosed with autism, it’s important to know that his (or her) case will be as unique as his fingerprint.

Each child exhibits his or her own pattern of autism. The disorder affects three different areas: social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and behaviours and interests.

ASD can appear as intellectual disability, attention problems, difficulties in motor coordination, and physical health issues like sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some children display signs of autism from birth.

Parents are typically the first to notice the signs of ASD, which become apparent around 2-3 years of age. ASD diagnosis can be enormously challenging for parents. But research indicates that when ASD is detected and addressed with proven behavioural therapies at an early age, it can result in improved outcomes.

ASD does not necessarily translate into limited intellectual capabilities. It is common for those on the spectrum to demonstrate exceptional abilities in visual skills, music and academic skills.

Roughly 40% have average to above average intellectual abilities. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)- is a disorder that simply makes hard to pay attention. While most think of it as a disorder that affects children, it can affect adults as well, having an impact on their ability to stay focused, organised and in control of their impulses.

The symptoms usually become visible in childhood, often in a school setting when teachers notice the child’s inability to sit still and pay attention. ADHD can be seen both at home and at school. A formal diagnosis is only made if the symptoms of ADHD are present for at least six months.

The disorder is typically visible in three symptoms: inattention (having a hard time paying attention), hyperactivity (being overactive) and impulsivity (acting without thinking first). ADHD is incurable, but effective treatments are available to help manage the symptoms.

The condition is typically treated with behaviour modification, medication or a combination of the two. Down’s Syndrome is a common genetic disorder present from birth. It results in developmental delays caused by the presence of extra genetic material and has impact on both mental and physical development. Each human cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes; half of each pair comes from our mother and the other half comes from our father.

Those with Down’s Syndrome have an extra 21st chromosome. For this reason, Down’s Syndrome is also referred to as Trisomy 21. While the disorder can be detected before a child is born, it cannot be prevented. The distinguishing physical characteristics of Down’s Syndrome include a flat face and short neck, as well as eyes that are slightly slanted. Mild to moderate learning disabilities and low muscle tone in infancy are also typically present.

Other health conditions can be associated with Down syndrome, including heart defects, leukemia, early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and gastrointestinal problems. Some medical problems linked to this syndrome, like hearing problems or thyroid problems can be treated or corrected.

Intellectual Disability limits a person’s mental capacity – the ability to learn, reason, and solve problems. It also limits a person’s adaptive behaviour – the conceptual, social and practical skills that people use on an everyday basis. It is considered a developmental disability because it presents itself during the developmental period, which ends at the age of 18.

Generally, a person who is intellectually disabled will develop more slowly than his or her peers. The level of adaptive behaviour can be determined with standardised tests. An accurate diagnosis of intellectual disability must also take into account the cultural differences that influence the way a person behaves and the typical community environment for the person and his or her peers.

The most common causes of intellectual disability are genetic conditions such as abnormal genes passed down from parents or a flaw in the genes combine. It can also be caused by problems experienced by the mother during pregnancy or at birth, consumption of alcohol during pregnancy or an infection.

A disability can also result when the cells do not divide properly while the baby is developing in the womb or if oxygen is restricted during labour and birth. A baby or child can develop an intellectual disability from exposure to poisons such as lead or mercury, inadequate medical care, extreme malnutrition, or diseases such as whooping cough, the measles or meningitis.

Indications of intellectual disability include a variety of signs. It’s important to remember that those with intellectual disabilities also have strengths that should not be overlooked. With the right treatment, a person with an intellectual disability can lead a fulfilling, productive life.

Learning Disability is a neurological disorder when the brain is wired differently.Those diagnosed with this disorder can learn – in a different way. Dyslexia is a very common condition that affects the brain’s ability to process written and spoken language. It’s typically thought of as a reading disorder, but writing, spelling and speaking can also be affected by dyslexia. It lasts a lifetime, but a wide range of teaching methods and strategies have been developed to help those affected by dyslexia to overcome it and lead successful, productive lives.

A person with dyslexia may display one or more of the following traits: Reads slowly and with much effort, a great problem solver, can’t spell; has messy handwriting, writing shows terrific imagination, has trouble remembering dates and names, thinks out-of-the-box, can grasp the big picture.

Like dyslexia, dysgraphia is a learning disability. However while dyslexia affects one’s ability to read, dysgraphia affects the ability to write. Children who experience dysgraphia may have problems with the physical act of writing. Or they may find it hard to organise their thoughts and express them in writing.

A child with dysgraphia may also have a hard time with spelling. Regardless of how dysgraphia affects a child, there are strategies and therapies that can help a child overcome the disability.

Dyscalculia is another learning disability, though less common. It affects a person’s ability to comprehend numbers and learn the principles of math. They may have a hard time counting, understanding math symbols, memorising and organising numbers and telling time. Even understanding concepts such as seasons, months, weeks and days can be difficult.

A number of strategies can be used to assist someone who is diagnosed with dyscalculia. Mnemonic devices, drawings and rhythm and music can help them to understand the concepts of math.

Simple tools such as graph paper, coloured pencils for breaking problems into smaller components, and scratch paper can also facilitate. If you see signs or behaviours that suggest your child may have a special need, seek advice or a referral from thedoctor.

The earlier an issue is identified and addressed with appropriate treatment, the better. Early intervention can help to reduce the impact of a developmental disability, which will lead to a better future for your child.