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Oct 24, 2021

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socialises with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children with autism may display any, or a combination of, the factors listed below:

  • Delayed language skills
  • Delayed movement skills
  • Delayed cognitive or learning skills
  • Hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive behavior
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorder
  • Unusual eating and sleeping habits
  • Gastrointestinal issues (e.g. constipation)
  • Unusual mood or emotional reactions
  • Anxiety, stress, or excessive worry
  • Lack of fear or more fear than expected

What causes autism

Not much is known about the causes of ASD, however most scientists agree that genes are one of the risk factors that make a person more likely to develop it. Individuals with certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis, have a greater chance of having ASD.

The prescription drugs valproic acid and thalidomide have been linked with a higher risk of ASD, when taken during pregnancy.

There is also some evidence that the critical period for developing ASD occurs before, during, and immediately after birth and children born to older parents are at greater risk of having the disorder.

“In the South African context, the prevalence of ASD is still relatively unknown. To date, very little research has been performed within school systems that could inform the rates, distribution, and profile of needs of children with ASD in education,” according to a study conducted regarding autism in the Western.

Managing ASD

Parents with children who have the condition are left to fend for themselves and find the best ways to take care of their children with very little knowledge on how to manage it.

“While there is no way to prevent ASD, there are treatment options. Early diagnosis and intervention are most helpful and can improve behavior, skills, and language development. Though children usually don't outgrow autism spectrum disorder symptoms, they may learn to function well,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Medication tends to be used in South Africa to treat specific behaviours related to autism such as hyperactivity. This medication is not used to treat autism per se.

According to an article published by Mediclinic, autism specific therapies might include Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), Relationship Development Intervention, Floortime (DIR), TEACCH, Son-Rise and others. It is of the utmost importance that a child-specific approach is used, and that child-specific deficits are addressed. A rehabilitation programme will usually include occupational and speech therapy.

As from 2022, Bestmed will cover Autism as a non-CDL chronic condition on its Pace2, Pace3 and Pace4 options. In order to apply, Bestmed will require a prescription from a paediatrician, paediatric neurologist or child psychiatrist. Medicine authorisations will be subject to a medicine formulary.

The heartwarming story of singer and entertainer Kodi Lee

Kodi Lee, who is both autistic and blind entered the popular TV show “America’s Got Talent” season 14. Little did he know that he was going be crowned the winner of that season. Kodi Lee who overcame all the odds to make a success of himself uses music as a way to connect with the world and the people around him.

The blind, autistic performer blew everyone away with a cover version of “A Song for You” during his first audition, click on the link below to watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jS07j4mL-0

 

Reference List

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism#:~:text=Autism%2C%20or%20autism%20spectrum%20disorder,in%20the%20United%20States%20today

Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928

Mediclinic: https://www.mediclinicinfohub.co.za/autism/

Sage Journals: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1362361320978042

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