Autism

Autism

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We just don’t cure, we care

As a parent of a child with autism, every day brings new challenges and growing anxiety about the future. We at MediTourz understand your worries and strive to lead your child towards a more independent and fulfilling life.

Our comprehensive autism management programme combines breakthrough stem cell therapy with various rehabilitation modules such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, speech therapy, physiotherapy, music therapy, dance therapy and art therapy.

Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are a class of neurodevelopmental disorders that impair an individual’s ability to communicate and interact. The term ‘spectrum’ refers to the varied range of symptoms that can be seen in different individuals. Autism typically appears during the first three years of a child’s life.

In India, roughly 1 in 500 children are known to be battling this condition while in the USA statistics suggest autism is prevalent among 1 in 68 boys and 1 in 189 girls. However, these numbers may be way lower than the actual figures due to lack of awareness.

For a long time, no reasonable cause of autism was known. Even now, there is no definitive cause known but extensive research points to genetic, environmental and metabolic factors. Enough research has been done to indicate that genetic factors predominate but it is still not clear how it is inherited. What adds to the complexity of the problem is that it is not yet clear which genes control this process.

In some cases, certain types of infections and problems occurring at birth can also contribute to this condition. Some possible causes may be

Structural or functional damage to the nervous system

A gene mutation, meaning a change in the gene structure, may lead to abnormal brain development

Maternal bleeding three months into pregnancy, presence of meconium in the amniotic fluid and insufficient nutrition during pregnancy may be some of the perinatal causes of autism

Maternal stress, exposure to strong medicines, toxins, infections or radiation and mercury poisoning

The symptoms become visible in the first three years of a child’s life and manifest as difficulty in interacting socially, communicating both verbally and non-verbally, and behaviour that is repetitive like saying a sentence over and over again, or trying to put the same things in order over a long time. The person may not be able to talk to you, or they might not look you in the eye when you talk to them. Almost a third of the individuals on the autism spectrum exhibit epilepsy or seizures.

Autism is also characterized by intellectual disability, problem in motor coordination, attention deficit and physical problems such as sleep disturbances and gastrointestinal disorders.

However, many on the autism spectrum have been known to possess exceptional visual skills, music sense, academic skills and excel in mathematics and art. Still others have been known to have average to above average intellectual abilities.

Some of the signs of autism are

  • Difficulty using nonverbal behaviors such as eye-gaze, facial expressions, body postures, and gestures
  • Difficulty forming peer relationship
  • Difficulty starting or maintaining a conversation
  • Delay or lack of development of spoken language
  • Repetitive behavior such as twirling, rocking or head bobbing.
  • More interest in objects or things, rather than people
  • Ignoring or avoiding eye contact
  • Failure to recognize or answer to their own name
  • Sensory issues like closing their ears to loud sound or do not like being touched
  • Short attention span, getting distracted easily
  • Self-injurious behavior like head banging, biting oneself
  • Aggressive behavior towards others like biting, scratching, throwing objects
  • Attachment with irrelevant objects
  • Appetite for non-food and non-nutritive items like chalk, paper, sand, paint, dirt, a phenomenon known as pica

Children do not 'outgrow' autism but early intervention and diagnosis can help them live better.

Every person is unique so treatment of autism also differs from one individual to another. There are several accompanying health issues with those suffering from autism such as poor sleep, gastrointestinal disturbance and seizures. Addressing these can result in the patient responding better to other forms of treatment such as speech therapy, applied behavioral analysis, social skills therapy etc. Early recognition accompanied by behavioral and family therapies may show positive results in development and learning.

Occupational Therapy

Training those with this condition in day to day chores like taking a bath, dressing, eating etc can give them a better quality of life. Sensory integration therapy (SI) reduces sensory issues and helps the child to move towards an independent.

Psychological Intervention

This kind of therapy helps the parents and the child deal with his anxiety, stress and fear. These are common psychological issues that accompany autism.

Speech Therapy

Children battling autism generally have trouble communicating and speaking. A speech therapist facilitates communication involving the child and also provides him with a richer word pool to use. This encourages children to speak and communicate more.

Medication

Mood swings, aggressive behavior, hyperactivity etc can be addressed using medicines. Medication is also used for relieving other distressing symptoms such as OCD, depression, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances etc.

Stem Cell Therapy

Regenerative therapy is fast becoming a ray of hope for children showing symptoms of Autism. This therapy employs stem cells that are undifferentiated cells and have the capability to multiply and grow into cells performing specific functions. Researchers believe this could help repair the damaged brain tissue that leads to Autism.

There has been a marked clinical and objective radiological improvement in children suffering from Autism after they underwent this therapy using motor neuron cells that were derived from stem cells from the bone marrow.

Lack of oxygen the brain and immune de-regulation are the two key reasons associated with autism. This in turn could be the cause of reduced functioning in this area. This coupled with an overall misbalance in the brain activity, is possibly responsible for the manifestations associated with autism.

Researchers and doctors are now researching for techniques using stem cells as potential therapy for curing autism in children. It is believed that stem cells possess the capability to multiply many cells and form cells different from the mother cell can help in repair of the damaged brain tissue. Stem cells have the capability to repair the affected neural tissue at the, structural, molecular and functional levels.

Stem cells are known to treat the core of neuropathology of autism, with the help of unique paracrine functions that are capable of regulating cell tissue ,organ repair, cell differentiation and anti-inflammatory actions in the person receiving treatment.

Stem Cell therapy using MNC's derived from autologous bone marrow has shown significant clinical and objective improvements in children with autism. It is a safe and effective treatment method as it focuses on neurological repair.

Dr. Alok Sharma

Consultant Neurosurgeon

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