As a nurse you care for patients suffering from a variety of health concerns. Learning more about them can make you better equipped to help patients and their families understand the health condition to improve outcomes and quality of life. Today, we will discuss a neurobehavioral and developmental disorder you will likely come across called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex developmental and neurobehavioral disorder characterized by a few primary deficits, namely, impaired communication and social interaction and repetitive and restrictive behaviors. The reason it is referred to as autism spectrum disorder is because of the varying range and severity of symptoms that an individual may have. ASD is influenced by the development of a person’s brain that impacts how they perceive and socialize with other people, leading to issues with their communication and social interactions.
Autism is often diagnosed in early childhood. As there is a wide spectrum of severity, patients may be minimally affected, or severely affected where they are nonverbal and unable interact with their surroundings.
Children suffering from ASD often start showing signs early on as infants. Some initial signs typical of ASD in children can include nonresponsiveness to their names, indifferent demeanor toward caregivers, and reduced eye contact. Some children may not show signs in early infancy but begin developing symptoms after the first few months or years. If a child is suffering from ASD, they may typically start showing obvious signs by the age of 2.
ASD can vary drastically from one child to the next. Some children with autism may have issues with learning and display signs of having lower intelligence than the norm. Other children can have high-functioning symptoms, displaying higher signs of intelligence. While they may be capable of learning things quickly, they might still have issues with communication, adjusting to social situations, and trouble applying what they learn in their daily lives.
Due to the unique combination of symptoms in every child, it can be difficult to determine the severity of ASD they suffer from. Here is a list of the common symptoms shown by people with ASD.
- Nonresponsiveness to their name or appearing to be unable to hear you sometimes.
- Does not appreciate physical contact and prefers playing on their own.
- Delayed speech, a loss of ability to speak words they previously could, or the inability to talk entirely.
- Cannot begin a conversation or continue one.
- Speaking in an atypical tone.
- Repeating phrases or words but unable to comprehend how to use them.
- Appears not to understand straightforward instructions or questions.
- Unable to express feelings and emotions or comprehend those of others.
- Challenges in recognizing nonverbal cues, such as identifying another person’s facial expressions for what they are, tone of voice, or body language.
- Performing repetitive actions, like spinning, rocking back and forth.
- Causing self-harm.
- Creating specific routines for themselves and becoming highly disturbed at even the slightest disruption in the routines.
- Having issues with coordination.
- Unusually sensitive to sound, touch, or light but may not be bothered by temperature or pain.
- Can become fixated on objects with unusual focus and intensity.
There is no specific reason a person can develop autism. Genetic factors may increase the chances of a child developing autism, especially if it runs in the family. Oftentimes, genetic changes increasing the risk of developing autism can happen during pregnancy. However, the genetic changes only increase the risk of developing the disorder and do not cause it themselves.
Autism spectrum disorder appears to impact critical aspects of early development in a child’s brain, ranging from impacting how nerve cells communicate with each other to changing entire regions of the brain.
There is no cure for autism spectrum disorder. However, taking action early can make a substantial difference in the lives of children to help them live more fruitful and fuller lives as they grow into adulthood. An early intervention involving a combination of treatments can help children learn critical functional, behavioral, social, and communication skills.
Due to the unique nature of ASD in every case, not every approach may be effective in helping a child suffering from it. Additionally, a child’s needs may change as they grow older. It is essential to discuss with experts to develop a tailor-made treatment strategy. The treatments can include:
- Communication therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Developmental therapy
- Educational therapy
- Family therapy
- Occupational therapy
Learning about autism, becoming an expert on the child’s unique case, accepting their quirks, and offering them the necessary support can help a parent improve their child’s quality of life living with ASD. Being proactive and tackling the various challenges they face as they grow up is critical to helping them live fuller and happier lives.
As crucial as patient education is, pursuing continuing education is also critical to your role as a nurse. Not only will it help you with patient education and advance your knowledge, but nursing continuing education is also necessary to renew your nursing license.
If the time to renew your license is near, online nursing CEUs like those offered by Fast CE For Less at www.fastceforless.com offer a convenient, affordable, and flexible solution.