Dr. Shambhavi Seth

MD Pediatrics, Director- Bright Beginings Child Development Centre, New Delhi

Senior Consultant, Max Healthcare

 

Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician with more than 18 years of experience .
After completing her Post graduation in Pediatrics , she did fellowship in developmental neurology .
She is the Director of Bright Beginnings child development centre in New Delhi which is a multidisciplinary early intervention centre for children with developmental disorders
She is also senior consultant with Max Healthcare and hospitals in New Delhi
Her special interest is in Autism spectrum disorders and early interventions and strongly believes parents are the central pillars of any intervention program.
She has been part of numerous conferences through Indian Academy of Pediatrics and is currently joint secretary of IAP chapter of Neuro-developmental pediatrics .

( 4 Mins. Read )

 

  1. My child can speak words and can even sing rhymes; can he still be diagnosed with Autism?

Yes. Autism spectrum disorder is a disorder of communication and it’s not merely a speech delay. A child with autism may not respond to his/her name, or follow instructions and the same child may be able to sing rhymes or name colors or alphabets. This is because probably child has been exposed to these words most of the time which he/she has learnt. At this stage is merely repeating the words without clear understanding of its meaningful usage.

  1. My child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will he speak?

A child with autism though may present with delay in speaking meaningful words but impairment of communication is the hallmark. With proper interventions child learns to communicate first- making an eye contact, attend and engage in activities with parents, following instructions. Once these skills are in place, then target is to develop expressive language which is speech. Most of the cases presenting are of milder range and with proper early interventions they are able to gain basic speech and advanced language skills too. But it should be noted that there may be a small number who may remain non verbal.  An individualized targeted plan is extremely essential and regular follow up from time to time of skills achieved should be done with trained professionals. 

  1. My child has ASD can he or she attend mainstream regular school?

Any child in whom autism is suspected or has presented with language delays and deviancies     should be started on interventions and a stimulation plan. It may not be possible to label with a clear diagnosis in all cases but action should not be delayed. Many children who receive timely interventions do show good school readiness skills and are able to adjust in mainstream inclusive schooling.  A detailed school readiness assessment can be carried out by trained professionals before enrolment. The Right to Education Act and Person with Disabilities Act has empowered families to seek admission in mainstream school set up.  There may be few children who would require support services which are to be integrated in the regular school set up so that education remains inclusive.

  1. Do all children diagnosed with autism have mental sub normality?

Mental subnormality or mental retardation as it was previously called is not part and parcel of Autism spectrum disorder. In fact child with autism may have above average cognitive skills and good memory but they are impaired in social communication skills. Only 30 percent of children with autism will have Intellectual disability.

  1. Why did my child develop autism, was I not a good parent?

Reason why autism spectrum disorders develop in one child and not in another is still poorly understood. Researchers have implicated certain genes which predispose one to this disorder. Some environmental factors like heavy metals, pollution, chemicals are also being studied. The myth that any parenting style may lead to autism is to be dismissed. But it should be noted that a stimulating environment where a child has opportunities to bond and nurture interactions is equally important for age appropriate development to take place. So exposure to mobile phones or any other screen in this digital age should be strictly not encouraged for any child below 18 months of age. 

  1. The entire tests during pregnancy were normal then how autism was missed in my child?

Since the reason why autism develops is still not clearly understood, no investigations            (blood or scans) are available to diagnose it at any time before or after birth. There are certain genetic disorders which may present like autism and tests are available for that. These are specific and routine antenatal tests done in pregnancy do not cover them. An expert opinion is required before going for these tests.

  1. Should we avoid vaccination in my child since he has been diagnosed with ASD?

Vaccinations are essential to prevent life threatening diseases. There association in causing autism has not been established.  Indian Academy of Pediatrics and other international academies support that vaccinations should be given in children with autism.

  1. What are the chances of having my other child with ASD, if my older one has one?

Autism has a genetic linkage but exact gene causing it has not been established till now. Currently almost 8-16 % chances are there of having autism in second child if already one child is affected. But it may also be noted that early interventions help in modifying the course of Autism. Even if a child is at risk of it, being watchful of early signs and early stimulation will help.

  1. Can Autism be cured with therapies like homeopathy, acupuncture or stem cell transplant?

Autism cannot be cured but course of disorder can be modified and child can be made to learn skills through appropriate professional guidance. Therapies like stem cell, acupuncture and homeopathy yet do not have strong research evidence to support its use in children with autism. Some of the experimental therapies can do more harm than good and one should be fully informed before taking it up.

 

This information is for general guidance and reflects the opinions and experience of the author. It is not intended to replace specialist consultation or provide treatment advice for specific cases.

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