Autism: Early Signs, Diagnosis, and Treatment with Medical Marijuana
Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD in short, is a developmental disorder that affects many aspects of a person's life such as social interaction, communication, and more.
It is not a single disorder, but a range of conditions that can challenge a normal life.
Researchers believe that autism is caused by many genetic and environmental factors. The exact impact of each of these factors is hard to pinpoint, because autism is a wide spectrum of disorders, where each person lives with his or her own challenges and strengths. This also determines the way they learn, handle life's problems, and even think. These large variations also explain why some people are severely challenged and require intense support from family members, while others can live independently despite facing some minor challenges.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in every 59 children is affected by autism in the United States today. These statistics clearly show that autism is more common than we believe, so it is important to understand the underlying causes, possible treatment, and even prevention wherever possible.
How to Identify Autism?
The timing and intensity of autism vary widely among individuals. Some children start showing signs when they are a few months old while in others the signs emerge only when they are around two or three years of age.
Some children may behave a bit differently from other children, but that does not mean they have autism. Since it is so different from each individual, only a professional evaluation can determine if a child is autistic or not.
Early Signs and Symptoms
Here are some early signs and symptoms to watch out for to determine if a child falls within the autistic spectrum or not.
When a child does not exhibit big smiles or any other joyful and engaging experiences and signs, it's time to have an evaluation. When a child does not recognize the mother, or makes limited to no eye contact, it could be a sign of autism.
When your child does not communicate by sending back and forth communication of sounds or expressions, it is time to go in for a professional evaluation. Lack of smiling, or other forms of facial expressions may also warrant an evaluation.
When your child makes no sounds or babbles, does not respond to the repeated calling of their name, and does not express any gestures or emotions, it is a clear sign of autism. You should get a professional evaluation right away.
When there are little to no words coming from the child, consider a checkup right away.
When your child does not say two-word phrases, or does not imitate your sounds, it's time for an evaluation.
When you see the following symptoms in your child at any age, it is important to take your child to a healthcare provider at the earliest.
- Avoiding eye contact
- Prefers to be alone
- Loss of social or communication skills all of a sudden
- Inability to understand the feelings of others
- Delayed language and speech
- Resistance to routine or even familiar surroundings
- Little to no interest in anything
- Repetitive behaviors that are clearly out of place
- Unusual or intense reactions to some sounds, colors, or environments.
All the above could mean autism and can be verified only by a medical professional.
Early recognition is necessary to treat autism. There is no fixed treatment procedure, because it is a wide spectrum and varies widely from individual to individual. Hence, the treatment should be customized to address the condition of that particular child.
Some of the common therapies used in treating autism include:
- Anger management
- Family therapy
- Applied behavior analysis
- Antipsychotic medications
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Behavioral therapy.
Each of these therapies can be done in isolation, or it can be combined with others to help the child to manage the condition. Besides the child, other family members including parents have to go through counseling sessions to help them accept the condition of their child, and to help manage or live with it for the rest of their life. In some severely challenging cases, the parents will have to provide life-long care for the child.
It is not possible to prevent autism altogether, but early intervention and medical intervention can help to reduce the impact. While some medications are deemed to help with autism, many people are choosing to go for natural alternatives that will have little to no side-effect on the body. Many cannabis cultivators opine that marijuana has antipsychotic properties that can help some cases in ASD.
In all, autism is a condition that encompasses a wide range of conditions. The identification and treatment will vary greatly, based on the individual.