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number of autistic children in Bangladesh is rising at a high speed but lack of proper knowledge and guidance is making the management of this apparently incurable disorder more complicated. A recent study conducted by Institute of Pediatric Neurodisorder and Autism (IPNA) at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) claims that at least 17 per 10,000 babies in Bangladesh have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The study titled “Nationwide Survey on Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Bangladesh 2017” was operated on 37,982 households in 30 districts across the country with 38,440 children aged between 16 and 30 months and concluded that early detection as well as early intervention greatly improve outcomes.  So, it’s important to look for these symptoms when a child is as young as possible.

ASD  is a developmental disability that affects the way people communicate, behave, or interact with others. There’s no single cause for it, and symptoms can be very mild or very severe.  The people who are on the spectrum may exhibit symptoms at various stages of their life; some children start showing signs as young as a few months old, while others seem to have normal development for the first few months or years of their lives and then they start showing signs.  Up to half of the parents of children with ASD noticed issues by the time their child reached 12 months, and between 80% and 90% noticed problems by 2 years. Children with ASD will have symptoms throughout their lives, but it’s possible for them to get better as they get older.

The autism spectrum is very wide. Some people might have very noticeable issues, others might not. The common thread is differences in social skills, communication, and behavior compared with people who aren’t on the spectrum. If your child is on the spectrum, they might show some social symptoms by the time they’re 8 to 10 months old. WebMD, an American corporation known primarily as an online publisher of news and information pertaining to human health and well-being, has outlined a few symptoms of an autistic child:

  • He can’t respond to his name by his first birthday.
  • Playing, sharing, or talking with other people doesn’t interest him.
  • He prefers to be alone.
  • He avoids or rejects physical contact.
  • He avoids eye contact.
  • When he’s upset, he doesn’t like to be comforted.
  • He doesn’t understand emotions — his own or others’.
  • He may not stretch out his arms to be picked up or guided with walking.

It has been found that nearly 40% of kids with autism spectrum disorders don’t talk at all, and between 25% and 30% develop some language skills during infancy but then lose them later. Some children with ASD start talking later in life.

Most have some problems with communication, including

  • Delayed speech and language skills
  • Flat, robotic speaking voice, or singsong voice
  • Echolalia (repeating the same phrase over and over)
  • Problems with pronouns (saying “you” instead of “I,” for example)
  • Not using or rarely using common gestures (pointing or waving), and not responding to them

Many children exhibit such symptoms by 12 months to 18 months of age or earlier. The symptoms may include:

  • Problems with eye contact
  • No response to his or her name
  • Problems following another person’s gaze or pointed finger to an object (or “joint attention”)
  • Poor skills in pretending play and imitation
  • Problems with nonverbal communication

Unfortunately, many parents are not familiar with these early signs of autism and don’t start thinking about autism until their children do not start talking at a typical age. As a result, most children with autism are not diagnosed until after age 3, even though health care providers can often see developmental problems before that age.

Parents need to realize that it’s never too early for a general developmental evaluation.  American Academy of Pediatrics suggests pediatricians to screen babies and young children for developmental delays at every regular or other kinds of checkup. Many of these delays – including the language and social delays associated with autism – can be identified at 18 months, if not earlier.

Studies demonstrate that behavioral signs of autism can begin to emerge as early as 6 to 12 months though most professionals of the disorder won’t attempt to make a definite diagnosis until 18 months because autism symptoms may fluctuate and the diagnosis may not be stable until around 24 months. Some kids may fulfill all the developmental milestones at 18 months, but then begin to lose skills or “regress.” In other words, autism can’t be ruled out at 18 months. Conversely, some babies show early signs and delays but then catch up with their peers by 24 months. It’s also important to remember that many high-functioning children with autism aren’t diagnosed until they enter school and start struggling socially. Research shows that parents are good at picking up on early signs of autism. So if you’re concerned, ask your doctor for a referral to a developmental pediatrician or psychologist who specializes in ASD.

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