Autism or Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain

Autism: Psychosocial Interventions Will Enhance Children’s Social, Communication Skills

Recent studies have shown that a broad range of interventions from early childhood and throughout the life span of those living with autism can improve their quality of life, development, health and well-being.

The study suggested that timely access to early evidence-based psychosocial interventions can improve the ability of autistic children to communicate effectively and interact socially, while also recommending monitoring of a child’s development as part of routine maternal and child health care.

The research titled ‘Global prevalence of autism: A systemic review update was published in the National Library of Medicine.

According to a paediatrist, Esther Christian, it’s important that, once autism has been diagnosed, children, adolescents and adults with the spectrum and their caregivers are offered relevant information, services, referrals, and practical support, in accordance with their individual and evolving needs, and preferences.

She noted that the healthcare needs of people with autism are complex and require a range of integrated services, including health promotion, care and rehabilitation.

Christian stressed that collaboration between the health sector and other sectors, particularly education, employment and social care, is important.

“Interventions for people with autism and other developmental disabilities need to be designed and delivered with the participation of people living with these conditions. Care needs to be accompanied by actions at community and societal levels for greater accessibility, inclusivity and support.

“Autism constitutes a diverse group of conditions related to the development of the brain. About one in 100 children have autism, which may be detected in early childhood, but often not diagnosed until much later.

“The abilities and needs of autistic people vary and can evolve over time. While some people with autism can live independently, others have severe disabilities and require life-long care and support.”

She, however, said evidence-based psychosocial interventions can improve communication and social skills, with a positive impact on the well-being and quality of life of both autistic people and their caregivers.

The World Health Organisation Comprehensive Mental Action Plan 2013–2030, and World Health Assembly Resolution WHA73.10 for global actions on epilepsy and other neurological disorders, had called on countries to address the current significant gaps in early detection, care, treatment and rehabilitation for mental and neurodevelopmental conditions, which include autism.

It also called on countries to address the social, economic, educational and inclusion needs of people living with mental and neurological disorders, and their families, and to improve surveillance and relevant research.

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WHO lamented that Autism often has an impact on education and employment opportunities, stating that societal attitudes and the level of support provided by local and national authorities are important factors in determining the quality of life of people with autism.

“People with autism often have co-occurring conditions, including epilepsy, depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as well as challenging behaviours such as difficulty sleeping and self-injury.

A Consultant Gynaecologist and the Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, said the level of intellectual functioning among autistic people varies widely and extends from profound impairment to superior levels.

“So, there is the need to take care of these special children,” he added.

Dr. Ajayi noted that people with autism have the same health problems as the general population, but have specific health-care needs related to autism or other co-occurring conditions that may make them more vulnerable to developing chronic noncommunicable conditions due to behavioural risk factors such as physical inactivity and poor dietary preferences.

He further pointed out that they are at greater risk of violence, injury and abuse.

“People with autism require accessible health services for general health-care needs like the rest of the population, including promotive and preventive services and treatment of acute and chronic illness. Nevertheless, autistic people have higher rates of unmet healthcare needs compared with the general population. A common barrier is created by healthcare providers’ inadequate knowledge and understanding of autism,” he added.

Based on reports, while certain childhood vaccines are linked to the causes of autism, available scientific evidence suggests that there are probably many factors that make a child more likely to have autism, including environmental and genetic factors.

Also, available epidemiological data from the WHO concluded that there is no evidence of a causal association between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism.

“Evidence reviews of the potential association between the preservative thiomersal and aluminium adjuvants contained in inactivated vaccines and the risk of autism strongly concluded that vaccines do not increase the risk of autism,” WHO said.

The world health body also noted that all people, including those with autism, have the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, yet autistic people are often subjected to stigma and discrimination, including unjust deprivation of healthcare, education and opportunities to engage and participate in their communities.

In its efforts to improve the well-being of autistic individuals, WHO and its 66 countries partners recognised the need to strengthen countries’ abilities to promote the optimal health and well-being of all people with autism by focusing on providing guidance on policies and action plans that address autism within the broader framework of health, mental, brain health and disabilities

Others include contributing to strengthening the ability of the health workforce to provide appropriate and effective care and promote optimal standards of health and well-being for people with autism; promoting inclusive and enabling environments for people with autism and other developmental disabilities, and providing support to their caregivers.

SOURCE: HealthWise