By Dr. Ali Shehata
As more and more children in the Muslim, and non-Muslim, community get diagnosed with Autism, we have noticed that far too many parents do not know what this condition represents. Is it a form of mental retardation or a birth defect? Did the mother do something wrong in her pregnancy to cause this to happen? Was it the cause of an immunization?
This article has been written to try to help parents understand in the simplest terms possible exactly what is Autism. Essentially, Autism is the name of a condition that affects the brain of children usually somewhere between birth and two years of age. It was discovered in the 1940’s and seems to have become much more common in recent years.
It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 (latest CDC estimates) children at the present time or 1% of children. It affects boys more commonly than girls – about 3-4 times more commonly. It affects children equally across all races and economic conditions.
Autism has nothing to do with what a mother did in pregnancy – so please don’t blame yourself for your child’s condition. You are not responsible for it.
Some people believe that Autism has something to do with immunizations and although no definitive link exists between the immunizations given at the one year to two year age range, there are still doubts in many parent’s minds.
Autism represents a range of different conditions that are closely related. For this reason, it is often called the Autistic spectrum. Other conditions on this spectrum include Asperger’s (high functioning Autism) and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Many doctors do not believe that Autism is really any more common these days, only that we are more aware of it and diagnosing it better than before.
Autism usually presents with one or more of the following four signs:
1.Poor or non-existent communication (no pointing with finger, no speech, cannot express needs or wants, etc.)
2.Poor or non-existent eye contact, especially when spoken to
3.Prefers to be alone, poor social skills
4.Presence of strange, repetitive behaviors (watching water drip, smacking the hand, hand flapping, spinning, etc.)
If you see these signs in your child, it is important that you get your child checked immediately.
Autism is not equal to mental retardation and in fact, some children with Autism have remarkable high IQ’s. Furthermore, the good news is that Autism can be helped, especially when parents start therapies early (before 2-3 years of age is best).
Children with Autism have a good chance to go on to have productive and independent lives alhamdulillah.