AYURVEDA AND AUTISM
AUTISM AND AYURVEDA Dr. Valsaladevi K BAMS FAGE YIC MBA Senior Consultant (Fertility and Child Health) Sakalya Ayurveda Hospital Calicut
WHAT IS AUTISM OR AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER OR ASD? Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is defined as a developmental disorder that affects communication and behaviour of an individual. The symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life of a child. Autism is classified as a “spectrum” disorder as the type, onset and severity of the signs and symptoms vary widely and the disorder is seen in populations belonging to all ethnic, racial and economic groups.
American Psychiatric Association describes three early symptoms to suspect and diagnose ASD as:
• Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
• Restricted interests and repetitive behaviours
• Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in school, work and other realms of daily life.
HOW IS THE SOCIAL COMMUNICATION/INTERACTION BEHAVIOURS PATTERN IN ASD
• Negligible or inconsistent eye contact or avoiding eye contact
• Total or partial disinterest in listening
• Rare sharing of joy or joyful activities or pointing to joyful things
• Absent or slow response to being addressed or called by name
• Unresponsive or slow responding to verbal attempts to gain child’s attention
• Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation
• Continuous talking oblivious of the listener’s interest in conversation
• Allowing no chance to the listener to respond during a conversation.
• Facial expressions, body movements and gesticulations that do not match the context or conversation
• Unusual tone of voice sounding flat and robotic or sing-song.
• Inability to understand others person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions
WHAT ARE THE RESTRICTIVE /REPETITIVE BEHAVIOURS IN ASD?
• Repetition of certain behaviours or words or unusual behaviours.
• Sustained intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts
• Over focused interests on moving objects or parts of objects
• Irritation and intolerance to mildest changes in a routine
• Disturbed sleep pattern
• Hyper or hypo sensitivity to sensory input such as light, noise, clothing, temperature etc.
WHAT ARE THE STRENGTHS OF AN ASD PERSON?
• Ability to learn things in detail and remember information for long periods of time
• Strong, creative and sustained visual and auditory learning skills
• Excellence in maths, science, music, art, etc.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS OF ASD?
Conclusive causes are still unknown to the scientific fraternity. Researches lead to the inference of assuming the combination of genetic and environmental factors being the cause. A sibling with ASD, being the child of older parents, genetic conditions like Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome and Rett syndrome and very low birth weight are a few risk factors to develop ASD.
HOW TO DIAGNOSE ASD?
Continuous monitoring and assessment of a person’s behaviour and development and observing of the signs and symptoms is the means of diagnosis.
Decisive diagnosis can be made at the age of two and the process involves a two stage process.
Stage 1: General Developmental Screening during Child Health Check-ups at the age of 9, 18, 24 and 30-months with emphasis on ASD screening for the children with one or a few symptoms or are in the risk category is the first stage.
Stage 2: Additional Evaluation should be done with a panel of doctors including a developmental paediatrician, a child psychologist/child psychiatrist, a paediatric neurologist and a speech-language pathologist. The panel should assess cognitive level or thinking skills, language abilities and age-appropriate skills needed to complete daily activities independently such as eating, dressing, and toileting.
Systemic evaluation and investigations such as blood tests and hearing test are also done at this stage. In older children and adolescents the ASD symptoms are usually noticed by either parents or teachers. The further evaluation is done by specialists with the cooperation of the family, teachers, friends and other intimate social circles of the suspected ASD person. In adults diagnosis is complicated as ASD may overlap or mimic symptoms of mental-health disorders such as anxiety or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
WHAT ARE THE CONVENTIONAL TREATMENTS AND THERAPIES
Correct diagnosis and early treatment are the keys for better improvement and better prognosis of ASD. Reduction of the patient’s difficulties, assistance in learning new skills and encouragement to hone their creativity and strengths are the three strategies to be adopted in the management of ASD. Since ASD is a spectrum disorder the treatment is also widely varied and has to be customized based on individual symptoms and needs. Medications to minimise irritability, aggression, repetitive behaviour, hyperactivity, attention problems, anxiety and depression are usually prescribed.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF BEHAVIORAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL, AND EDUCATIONAL THERAPY
An integrated therapy based on the standard international protocol and formulated with individual considerations by a specialist panel of doctors providing medical, behavioural, psychological, educational and skill-building interventions plays a very important role in the management of ASD. These carefully structured and intensive should always involve parents, siblings, friends, close family relatives, teachers and other intimate social circles of the patient.
The objective of the integrated programs is to
• Learn necessary life-skills
• Practice to live independently
• Reduce socially challenging behaviours
• Enhance existing strengths or find new strengths or build upon new strengths
• Learn social, communication and linguistic skills ASD AND AYURVEDA: ASD can be a lifelong disorder, yet Ayurveda treatments supported by and integrated into the conventional treatment methods and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. Yoga can also be a major contributor in the management process and after throughout the patient’s lifespan.
The general Ayurveda medical approach includes
• Correction of Agni or GIT functions with internal medications and proper dietary regimen
• Regular removal of Aama or endotoxins through n suitable detoxification procedures
• Brimhana or physical, neurological and mental nourishment through enabling of absorption of vital nutrients, development of required behavioural patterns and enhancement of creative and cognitive strengths.
This is achieved by a personalised routine in sleep, exercise, tailored Ayurvedic treatments, massage, nutrition and eating plan, internal medicines and supplements. Removal of external and internal stress by introducing more wholesome lifestyle, nutrition and social elements would be a start. There is plenty of support in this area.Removing the endotoxins and correcting the digestion and metabolism are the next steps. The initial treatment may vary from 1-3 months once the new routine is established for a child who is freshly diagnosed. Regular reviews and follow ups are must for desirable results.
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