Autism, according to Dr. Richard Adebayo, a consultant psychiatrist and clinical psychologist, “is a neuro-developmental and mental disorder characterised by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication as well as restricted and repetitive behaviours, which follows a steady course without remission.”
The signs are usually noticed in children in their first three years of life. Autism was originally referred to as a condition in which fantasy dominates reality or is inside one’s self alone. It affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organise.
“How this occurs is, however, not well understood. Neurological disorders are diseases of the brain, spine and the nerves that connect them,” Adebayo said.
A resident psychiatrist, Dr. Victor Osakwe, said autistic children had problems with social stimuli and smiles, noting that they usually had less often eye contact with others.
He said, “They respond less to their own name and also pretend to play. They find it hard to communicate with others. They also have a limited range of activities and interest and do not have the ability to use simple movements to express themselves, such as pointing at things. Seventy-five per cent of children with autism also have some degrees of intellectual disability.
“They can have frequent seizures as well as low muscle tone. These children also have underlying anxiety and resistance to change. Older children and adults with autism perform worse on tests of face and emotion recognition. Children with high-functioning autism suffer from more intense and frequent loneliness compared to non-autistic peers, despite the common belief that children with autism prefer to be alone.”
Medical experts agree that, though there are some general factors, which can cause autism, some have not been proved.
Some of these factors are:
Parental characteristics -It is believed that parents of advanced ages may have children with weak nerves.
Prenatal complications -This could arise when the mother has diabetes, bleeds or takes psychiatric drugs during pregnancy.
Epigenetic factor -These are the environmental factors, which include nutrition, drug and mental stress. Also, mothers who take opium may most likely have children who are addicted to it and whose behaviour will be likened to that of an opium taker, which most times is similar to the behavioural traits of autism.
Infectious process -It is like the pre-natal viral infection, which
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