1. What is Autism?
    Autism is defined as severely incapacitating lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. It causes impairment in three main areas i.e., Reciprocal social interaction, Communication and Restricted stereotyped, repetitive behavior. A person with autism may show abnormal response to sensations. Autism is known as a 'spectrum disorder', because the severity of symptoms ranges from a mild learning and social disability to a severe impairment, with multiple problems and highly unusual behavior. There are associated milder forms of this condition such as Aspersers syndrome, PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder). These are all known collectively as ''Autism Spectrum Disorders''.

  2. Does a child with Autism show any Physical abnormality?
    A. A child with Autism looks like any other normal child, but they have some distinct behavioral patterns which sometimes make them look different. However children having Mental Retardation and Autism may show Physical abnormality.

  3. What is the cause of Autism?
    Till date the cause of Autism is not known. There is growing agreement that most causes of autism and ASD derive from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In infants with susceptibility, vaccination with live viruses may have contributed to the child's autistic regression (MMR vaccination). Recent studies indicate that autism may be produced due to damage to the central nervous system. At this point it is relevant to mention that autism is not caused by faulty parenting, abuse, emotional trauma, or any other psychological factors.

  4. Can it be prevented? Can it be cured and what are the treatments?
    As the cause of Autism is not known it cannot be prevented. There is no test where the chance of Autism can be detected in the fetus. There are no treatments to prevent or cure Autism; however a structured training programme with the combination of different therapies, good school and parent's involvement is the best treatment. Many therapies (diet, vitamin, bio-medical etc) are being tried but nothing is proven. Children with Autism will show remarkable improvement with a consistent and appropriate intervention. Early diagnosis and intervention i.e. before the child is five, is very important for the child's development.

  5. How is Autism different from Mental Retardation?
    A child with Mental retardation shows more or less even impairment in skills in all areas of development (mile stones, motor, communication, social, self-help, cognition etc.). But a child with Autism shows an uneven impairment in skills. In some areas the child may show age-appropriate skills, in some areas the skills may be below the developmental skills and in some areas he may show exceptional skills more than the required developmental skills. In some cases Autism may occur with mental retardation.

  6. How is Autism diagnosed?
    There are no medical or genetic tests that can detect autism. A proper diagnosis of autism requires a team of the Professional which may include the following:
    Developmental Paediatrician,
    Child Psychiatrist,
    Clinical Psychologist,
    Occupational therapist,
    Physical therapist,
    Speech/Language therapist,
    Special educator.
    They may also be involved in treatment programmes. Autism may occur with associated disabilities as mental retardation, hyperactivity and epilepsy.

  7. What are the different therapies which can help the child with Autism?
    Some of the therapies which help the children with Autism are Behavioral modification therapy, Occupational therapy, Speech therapy, Sensory Integration therapy, Play therapy, Music therapy and Dance therapy. All the above therapies are predominant ones. However, the result of each individual therapy to the child with Autism may vary from total unresponsiveness to remarkable improvement.
    It should be understood that responsiveness of the child to these therapies can be assessed only after consistent application over a period of time.

  8. Does Mercury in vaccination cause Autism?
    There is no definite answer to this question till date. No one can say with certainty that thimerosal, the vaccine preservative made with 49.6 percent mercury helped fuel an explosion in reported cases of autism. But there is no proof showing that it did not effect.

  9. Why do children with autism overreact or do not react to sound, touch, vision or taste?
    This is because of their inability to integrate sensory information from different modalities to gain an accurate picture of their surroundings. These difficulties in perception lead to adaptation difficulties and behavioral problems.

  10. Why do children with autism have difficulty in climbing stairs, balancing or don't seem to notice obstacles?
    Children with Autism often develop normally but are most unaware of their body in relation to the environment and lack of motor planning. Ex: How much to stretch the hand to reach a thing or how big or small a leap to cross a puddle or how much force to use to pull or push an object etc. These are the gross motor difficulties which involves usage of larger muscles and joints. An Occupational therapist can help in this matter.

  11. Handling things with hands or fingers is difficult, why?
    Inability to handle things with hands or fingers is actually lack of or poor control of the finer muscles of the hands, fingers etc. This is fine motor difficulty, which arises due to a number of associated problems like, lack of eye-hand co-ordination, imitation, perception and gross motor difficulties.

  12. Why do children with autism have difficulty in imitating others?
    Children with autism often have a problem in selecting a remembered behavior that is appropriate for imitation in a specific situation. The act of imitation involves many factors, including motivation, memory, sensory processes and control over both gross motor muscle sequences and motor co-ordination of mouth and hands.

  13. Why do children with autism have a problem with eye-hand coordination?
    Integration of skills is one of the primary weaknesses of children with Autism. Even though a child may have good fine motor skills, his eye-hand integration abilities may be on a considerably lower level due to perceptual problems. For e.g.: grasping a crayon and using it to scribble may be easy for a child, but using it to color within an outline involves the co-ordination of both fine motor and perceptual abilities which ultimately makes it difficult for the child to perform.

  14. What is Sensory Integration?
    Sensory experiences include touch, movement, body awareness, sight, sound, and the pull of gravity. The process of the brain organizing and interpreting this information is called sensory integration. Sensory integration provides a crucial foundation for later, more complex learning and behavior.
    For most children sensory integration develops in the course of ordinary childhood activities. Motor planning ability is a natural outcome of the process, as is the ability to adapt to incoming sensations. But for some children, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should... When the process is disordered a number of problems in learning, development, or behavior may become evident.

  15. Some children with Autism resists tooth brushing?
    This is sensitivity of the mouth and defensiveness is often due to texture of the brush.

  16. Many children with Autism though nonverbal constantly make a humming sound?
    The child is unable to filter the various auditory stimuli in the environment. This causes severe chaos and to overcome this he constantly makes humming sound.

  17. Child does not seem to understand what is said, why?
    This is a difficulty in receptive language which can be corrected with proper speech therapy.

  18. Dislikes closing eyes even for a minute or gets irritated in darkness?
    Needs lot of visual stimuli and gets panicky when that is absent.

  19. Comfortable with little light?
    For some children it is the other way round, they cannot take too much of visual stimuli as it is disturbing for them to focus on one activity. They cannot stand traffic jams, public functions and other possible areas where there is too much of visual stimulation.

  20. They cannot easily shift from one activity to another and feel comfortable continuing the same activity?
    This is because of transitional difficulty. They need to be prepared for the change before the activity is completed.

  21. Child gets panicky in new situation?
    Not knowing what follows or what is expected in the new situation is the reason. Predictability is very essential. Preplanning and preparation for the child is very important.

  22. Child is unable to carry on with daily routine activities?
    This is difficult for the child because he cannot plan step by step instructions and breaking the task into sub tasks.

  23. Can sign language be used for facilitating communication?
    Conventional method of sign language is difficult to teach, as most of the persons with autism have fine motor difficulties. Gestures may be used for basic needs but total communication is difficult.

  24. What causes hyperactivity and can it be reduced?
    If Autism is associated with ADHD (Attention deficit hyper disorder) medicines may help to a certain extent, but hyperactivity in Autism is because of an impairment of social and imaginative skills. They cannot play meaningfully and hence it is difficult for them to occupy themselves. Teaching new skills and teaching them to keep themselves occupied helps reduce hyperactivity.

  25. Child prefers to wear old worn out clothes to new ones?
    New clothes tend to have rough fabric which could become soft only after washing. The rough fabric irritates a tactile defensive child to the point of causing pain.

  26. Child mouths objects frequently?
    Child needs more of oral stimulation. Oral massages, activities like blowing, vibration with vibrating brush may reduce mouthing.

  27. Child spills lot of food while eating?
    This is related to tactile kinesthetic discrimination- the ability to learn about size, shape, texture and boundary without using vision but only through touch. The child probably lacks the concept of boundary. Kinesthetic discrimination activities like sand, water play, walking in boundaries etc may help the child.