The World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) is scheduled on the 2nd of April. It is one of only four official health-related United Nations Days. Its objective is to give a voice to the millions of individuals worldwide who are undiagnosed, misunderstood and looking for help. Light it up BLUE is their initial slogan. Their logo is a Puzzle Ribbon that was adopted in 1999: The puzzle pattern stands for the complexity of the Autism spectrum. The different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope.
Autism remains to be a phenomenon in the field of medicine. It is not diagnosed medically, rather through behavioral observation and screening such as: Inappropriate playing with toys, inability to relate to others, hyperactivity or passiveness, inappropriate laughing or crying, oversensitive or under sensitive to sounds, difficulty dealing with changes to routine…
Research has found that 1 out of 110 children worldwide is considered to have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The ASD is known to be a multifunctional disease, which means that its existence is related to various genetic and environmental factors.
It is detected by the perturbation of communication with the patient’s environment and reduced social skills. This pathology differs from a person to another and its causes remain unknown to this day. Most of the time ASD is associated with other pathologies such as epilepsy and mental retardation. In the case of an ASD, the brain size increases before it shrinks, and the white matter in the brain is also increased in the subcortical level.
As previously stated, the diagnostic is not a medical one, it is based on signs and behavior deficits that have to be present before the age of 3 years old. The main features of this pathology is the impaired social interaction and repetitive behavior. The diagnostic may be posed at the age of 18 months, if some signs are present (no eye contact, the child doesn’t respond when the mom/dad calls them, retardation of speaking or walking…).
There are two aspects as to how the symptoms could be reduced: first to provide remedy from specific symptoms, and second to improve the quality of life for the patient. The treatments include some diet modification and vitamin supplements, a proper follow-up from psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, dietician, etc…
The most important thing to know about the medication taken in this pathology is that symptoms could be reduced but a patient cannot be healed from autism. And just like any other pathology, the sooner we start the treatments, the better, because an early intervention and appropriate treatment may lead to greater levels of relief. The medical treatment is divided in three:
1) Anti-psychotic drugs: examples include Risperdone that is used to treat aggressive behavior, Haloperidol being similar to Risperdone with greater side-effects.
2) Anticonvulsant drugs: used to treat aggressive behavior.
3) Anxiolytic drugs: used to treat some symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and repetitive behavior.
And the most important thing to know about the other therapies such as Behavior Programs, Education and Learning Programs, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Social Skills Classes, Psychiatry… is that not only are they used to improve the quality of life for the patient but also to help them engage in society.