According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 36 children (that makes up 2.8% of the child population) in the US receives a diagnosis of autism by the age of 8 years – and this number is rising very rapidly.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it affects every child differently, and the severity of symptoms can vary widely. With the number of children suffering from autism rising so rapidly, it is time to provide the specialized and personalized care they need.
Let’s take a look at four keys that can help unlock autism, and where you can go to see the best pediatrician with experience treating children on the autism spectrum.
#1 Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts how people interact with others and how they learn, behave, and communicate.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term that encompasses many conditions – autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and unspecified forms of pervasive developmental disorder. All of these conditions were previously considered separate but have since been combined under ASD in the past few years with new updates in autism research.
Unfortunately, researchers have not yet been able to pinpoint the exact causes of autism spectrum disorder, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
ASD is diagnosed based on behavioral and developmental evaluations, meaning there are no medical tests or scans for its diagnosis. Even though autism can be diagnosed at any stage, its symptoms generally appear in the first year of the child’s life, therefore it is named “developmental disorder”.
#2 Recognizing the Signs of Autism
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends autism screening for all children between the age of 18 and 24 months. This is because some children show signs of autism in infancy.
It’s also important for parents to look out for the early signs of autism in their kids. Some common signs of autism in children are:
- Problems with social communication, such as delayed speech and poor eye contact
- Problem with interaction, e.g., the child may resist cuddling and holding and prefer playing alone.
- Repetitive patterns of behavior, interest, or activities, e.g., a child may repeat words, perform repetitive activities such as spinning, hand flapping, or rocking, and perform things that can harm him/her.
- Sensory processing issues, such as sensitivity to light, touch, or sound.
If your child displays any of these signs of autism, it’s important to seek an evaluation from a pediatrician.
#3 Finding Treatment and Therapies for Autism
Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism. However, early interventions can make a big difference in the life of an autistic child. Different types of therapy are available to help children with autism acquire new skills and overcome a wide variety of developmental challenges. Here are a few examples:
- Behavioral management therapy
- Cognitive behavior therapy
- Social skills training
- Speech-language therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Educational and school-based therapies
- Nutritional therapy
- Medication treatment
#4 Building Meaningful Relationships
Caring for an autistic child and building a strong meaningful relationship with them can be challenging for families. However, strong and loving relationships with caregivers are crucial to help improve symptoms and the quality of life of a child with autism.
As a parent or caregiver, you can take part in your child’s treatment by:
- Accepting your child, and their special quirks, and not comparing them to others
- Setting up a schedule for them, with regular time for meals, therapy, school, and bedtime, and sticking to it
- Praising them often
- Creating a home safety zone for them
- Understanding their nonverbal cues
- Paying attention to your child’s sensory sensitivities.
- Finding and enrolling your child and yourself in ASD support groups
Autism Treatment in Tampa, FL
If you are concerned about your child’s learning, speech, and social skills, see our pediatricians here at Children’s Medical Center. Our doctors will assess your child’s development milestones and work along with you to make sure that you raise a happy and healthy youngster.
We have a team of 21 pediatricians who take your child’s physical health, mental health, growth, and development seriously and provide personalized treatment.
To book an appointment with one of our board-certified pediatricians, call us at (727) 787-6335 or contact us at the location nearest to you. We look forward to supporting your child’s health and well-being!