Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a set of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect people’s communication and the way they interact with the world. They may show similar patterns of behavior but each person is an individual with a unique personality, history, and needs.
ASD is the term used to describe a subset of pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs). These PDDs are characterized by a triad of impairments, namely, in social interaction, in communication, and in imagination.
Impairment in social interaction means people with ASD find it difficult to understand that other people have their own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, which might differ from their own.
They can be categorized as aloof or those who isolates themselves and reject social interaction, passive or those who tend not to initiate social interaction but do not actively reject it, and active but odd or those who enjoy social interaction but lack understanding of socially-acceptable behavior.
Impairment in communication means people with ASD might sound almost mechanical because their tone, pitch, and modulation are unusual. They also suffer from echolalia or echoing what another person just said. They also have difficulty with abstract thinking and might exhibit inappropriate facial expressions.
Conversations with them can be one sided as they talk about their favorite topics unstoppably. Impairment in imagination means people with ASD are not as imaginative and creative as others are. Routine and uniformity are very important to them. This is why when these routines are broken, their anxiety level rises.
Today, because of ASD’s broadening definition, the increased awareness, and the systematic assessments practiced, incidence of ASD has increased with an estimate of one in 100 people having the disorder. This is why primary healthcare professionals are much needed.
Their knowledge and understanding of the special and particular needs of people with ASD are beneficial. However, it is not only the healthcare professionals who have the task of knowing and understanding all about ASD and the people with this disorder but also the family and friends of the person with ASD and the general public.
Since the family members are the ones closest to the people with ASD, they should be the ones who are most aware of their verbal and non-verbal abilities so that they know how to provide for their needs. Since they know their family member with ASD more than anyone, they should be the first to understand where they are coming from.
Their utmost patience in dealing with the anxiety outbreaks and unpredictable behavior of their family member is necessary. The family should always be there to accompany and support people with ASD so that their difficulty in eliciting information and exhibiting improper facial expressions and feelings will be minimized.
People with ASD need to feel that they are loved. Since they have difficulty with abstract concepts, concrete ways of demonstrating this love is very essential. In addition, the family or caregiver should monitor the medication of people with ASD. Reporting any side effects of the medication or any other information will be vital for the healthcare professionals in assessing and addressing the specific needs of people with ASD.
If family and friends can be understanding, other people can be judgmental and unsympathetic. This is because they lack awareness about ASD. If one is aware that a person has ASD, it is not proper to argue and blurt out negative statements as these will trigger anxiety to the person with ASD. It is not also right to look at them as if they are not normal, because the truth is, contrary to what was believed in, 75 percent of them have an average or above average intelligence.
However, if one is not aware that the person has ASD, he should not jump into the conclusion that the person is weird or schizophrenic. There might be a reason behind this that he does not know of. This is why it is he who can be named ‘abnormal’ for being unaware.
Autistic Spectrum Disorder is just like any other disorder or sickness in which understanding and awareness are keys to easing the difficult situation.