ASD affects one’s communication and social skills to varying degrees. Furthermore, its effects depend on where one falls on the autism spectrum of severity. Doctors use Autism Spectrum Disorder to illustrate the infinite continuum of the type and severity of developmental issues faced by ASD patients.
The word “spectrum” is used to show the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disablement patients who have ASD can present. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Patients with mild ASD can be fully functional members of society, and those with severe forms of ASD may require assistance for their entire life.
ASD can be challenging for both the patients and the caregivers. ASD patients are also prone to other health complications. And these complications can add to the challenge of living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Secondary ASD conditions
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is made even more difficult by the other health complications arising from ASD. Sometimes these health complications can even mask ASD or vice versa.
Many of the other health complications can sometimes overlap each other. This makes it difficult for doctors to determine how and why patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder are more likely to suffer from these complications. Caretakers should keep detailed notes on the progress of their patients. These notes can provide crucial insight that might help doctors diagnose and treat the patients.
These secondary conditions include;
Speech and language difficulty
Patients with ASD may find it challenging to communicate with language or gestures. They tend to show less interest in other people. Their focus may be on other things in their surroundings. Patients with ASD might not need or want to communicate with other people as much as ordinary people. As a result, it limits their chances to develop their language and social skills.
Seizures and epilepsy are some of the most common health complications associated with ASD affecting a third of patients with ASD and 1 in 2 of the general population.
Seizures can start at any time in the lifetime of an ASD patient. Typically, signs will show up in adolescence. One study shows that most seizures occur in patients after ten years, with the average age being 13. While the case on why seizures are common in patients with ASD is still out, doctors have a hypothesis. For instance, patients who had a regression of language skills before three are at a higher chance of having seizures and epilepsy.
Intellectual disability, in addition to ASD, is a significant contributing factor to having seizures. And finally, patients who have used antipsychotic medication are more prone to having seizures.
Although a ketogenic diet consists of patients reducing their protein and carb intake to a quarter of their fat intake, it has been shown to reduce or eliminate seizures significantly.
It has been reported that up to 80% of patients with ASD have some issue with sleep. The most common problems being difficulty falling asleep and waking up repeatedly. One cause of lack of sleep in patients with ASD is higher anxiety and depression level. These emotions can cause a patient to lay awake anxiously, making falling asleep almost impossible. And in some cases, sleepiness can be affected by the medication the patient is taking.
Sleep disorders can be combated by patients establishing sleeping routines that promote optimum sleeping conditions. These include keeping the bedroom dark and cool, keeping the sleep and wake schedule consistent, establishing bedtime routines, sticking to them, and regularly exercising.
Feeding and eating disorders affect around 7 out of 10 ASD patients. These eating disorders might be a slight aversion to some foods or too restricted food habits.
In extreme cases, some foods may cause inflammation leading to an ASD patient being overly overactive. And toxins in other foods may decrease their brain activity.
To understand which if any food is affecting an ASD patient, an elimination process is suggested. Although all food is not to be eliminated a once, systematically better understand which food affects the patient and how.
Once the patient’s reaction to the food has been studied, their diet changes should be made to fit their preferences and health requirements.
Challenges to the caregivers and family
Many ASD patient caregivers and family members experience stress and anxiety. Having a robust family support system is critical. This helps the family members and the caregivers to live a good life by also taking care of themselves. Good nutrition, hydration, and physical exercise are some of the recommended ways of looking after oneself.
Taking regular breaks and getting assistance from other family members is good for both the caregiver and the ASD patient. Mistakes in caregiving can be minimized. And the quality of life for both the caregiver and the ASD patient is much improved.
Families with ASD patients experience greater exaction not only on their finances but also on their emotional being. Sticking together as a family helps ease the emotional burden for everyone. While sharing the responsibility of taking care of the ASD patients within the family members greatly reduces the burden.
Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder
With early detection, proper treatment, and support systems, many ASD patients grow up to lead normal and productive lives. ASD doesn’t have to spell out a life of despair for an ASD patient anymore. Early diagnosis and proper medication regimens can help manage symptoms and complications. An excellent emotional support system and a strong family bond can foster promising futures for patients living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD.
And the community, in general, being sensitive to the unique situation faced by patients with ASD. This can make ASD patients feel more welcome and a part of society, encouraging them to join in social and economic events, leading to more “normal” lives.