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How to recognize the first signs of autism and who to turn to

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How to recognize the first signs of autism and who to turn to
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On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of its establishment, the Association for Therapeutic Intervention in Autism (AITA) is carrying out an extensive information campaign entitled “Ten” and brings into discussion important aspects related to autism, children’s therapy, the approach of parents and overcoming difficulties . As part of this campaign, psychologist Daniela Gavankar, president of the AITA Association, talks about the first symptoms of autism. “When the parent suspects something wrong with their child’s development, it is recommended to talk to a specialist (pediatric psychiatrist) with experience in this type of developmental disorder. With an early diagnosis and intervention started before the age of 3, the child has the best chances for a harmonious recovery”, declared the psychologist.

What signs should alarm you as a parent

Poor eye contact – response to name rarely or not at all or after many insistences. The child does not turn and look at the adult who calls his name. Prolonged repetitive behaviors – the tendency to isolate oneself and repeat an inappropriate behavior (closes/opens doors, waves hands or hops, spins car wheels). Poor social skills (prefers to spend time or play alone and even if he likes children he doesn’t know what to do with them). Long and inexplicable protests – if his routines change, the way, if new people come in contact with him, if he has to enter new buildings. Despite all the efforts made by the parents, the child can only be calmed down very hard and only when the routine is resumed. Opposition in activities or even simple requests – the child ignores even the simplest requests from others and protests vehemently if the adult insists. The absence of language or the delay in language development can be observed at any age, the child not acquiring a sufficient and functional vocabulary in time. The child can learn numbers or letters (sometimes in English), but cannot answer a question, nor is he interested in communicating his needs and preferences. Echolalia – encountered when he repeats, immediately or delayed, what he hears, either the songs or words on the tablet, or the questions of those around him. Feeding or sleeping difficulties are observed when the child becomes more and more selective with food or does not accept food until it is mashed or cannot separate from the bottle, and as far as sleep is concerned – his sleep needs are very reduced and he may have periods longer or shorter at night when he is not sleeping. I protest the others’ initiative to introduce him to activities (looking at a book together, playing with a car, a ball, a game together, etc.). Inappropriate use of toys, lack of interest in toys (either toys are ignored or not used for their proper purpose (spins them, licks them, slams them, etc.).

What you need to know about autism

Autism is considered one of the most severe neuropsychiatric disorders of childhood, a central disorder within a whole spectrum of developmental disorders, known as autism/autistic spectrum disorders or pervasive developmental disorders.

Did you know that…
…autism is increasing alarmingly in all environments, all over the world? It occurs more often in boys than in girls (the ratio being 4 to 1), and in Romania it is estimated that there are 30,000 people with this disorder.

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In Braşov, along with the existing associations, the Crystal Children Association and the Ray of Hope Association, the Watch How I Grow Association was established last year, where children diagnosed with autism can receive therapy.

“The main method of intervention in our center is based on the principles of behavioral intervention, known as ABA – Applied Behavior Analysis. It is currently the intervention with the most scientifically validated results, and the 8-year experience in this field has shown me that a correct application of these principles can generate impressive progress in the child’s life”, Roxana Clinciu, psychologist-speech therapist, told us and president of the association.

There are several factors that influence a child’s development:

– the diagnosis established by the psychiatrist,

– the age at which the intervention begins,

– family involvement in the therapeutic process,

– the quality of the therapy,

– the experience and involvement of specialists,

– adapting the objectives to the child’s needs.

In the Uite cum cresc association, ABA is implemented in intensive therapy programs, of at least 2 hours daily, which aim to:

– the development of imitation skills, of relating to adults and children,

– building communication skills,

– the skills that make the child autonomous: being able to wash his hands by himself, get dressed, eat by himself, use the toilet,

– desensitization to certain stimuli in the environment, when appropriate (objects that the child does not tolerate around him, foods that he does not eat, activities in which he cannot participate).

Speech therapy is included in the program for all children. The objectives are established by mutual agreement with the family, analyzing the child’s needs and the family’s priorities.

Expert advice

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Roxana Clinciu, psychologist-speech therapist

ABA, applied correctly, involves lots and lots of play! Children learn so much during play, affective relationships are built, social skills are so necessary in life. ABA requires structure, organization, rigor, but that does not mean we forget that we have a child in front of us, who has the right, above all, to be happy. We can apply ABA at the table, on the carpet, in the bathroom, on the street or on the bus, following all the steps learned.

These investigations are useful because there may be other associated disorders that need to be taken into account and that may require specific interventions.

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