A Dummy’s Guide to Autism in Pakistan

Autism, also called autism spectrum disorder, is known as a developmental disability that is widely overlooked in communities, especially in Pakistan.

The Dummy’s Guide series is focused on bringing awareness to Pakistan, and educate the community regarding multiple disorders and disabilities; after discussing schizophrenia, ADHD, and dyslexia, we will be discussing autism.

Autism, also medically known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability. A developmental disability is known as a disability that causes a group of conditions due to impairments in physical, learning, language, or behavioral areas.

So, autism can basically cause significant social, communication, and behavioral changes. However, it is awfully difficult to differentiate people who are autistic from the general crowd. Although, people with autism behave, talk, and communicate differently. Their hindrance level depends on person to person, and treatment is prescribed while keeping this in mind.

An autism diagnosis now includes a diagnosis for several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately such as autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.

  • Autistic Disorder: When most people think of autism, they think of this disorder. It refers to problems with social interactions, communication, and play in children younger than 3 years.
  • PDD: Your doctor might use this term if your child has some autistic behavior, like delays in social and communications skills, but doesn’t fit into another category.
  • Asperger’s Syndrome: Children with this don’t have a problem with language; in fact, they tend to score in the average or above-average range on intelligence tests. But they have social problems and a narrow scope of interests.

People often confuse autism with dyslexia, which makes awareness and distinction between the two rather difficult. Autism is a separate developmental disorder.

Symptoms of Autism

Individuals who suffer from autism go through several problems with social, emotional, and communicational skills. They usually repeat certain behaviors or find difficulties in changing their daily routine.

Similarly, many people with autism have distinct ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of autism begin from fairly early stages in life.

Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Toddlers - Speech & OT

Children or adults with autism may display the following:

  • They try not to point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)
  • Ignore objects when another person points at them
  • They have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
  • They may avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • They also have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • They prefer not to be held or cuddled or might cuddle only when they want to
  • Usually, they are not prepared when people talk to them but respond to other sounds
  • They may be interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
  • They repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
  • Have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • They do not like to play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)
  • They cannot repeat actions repeatedly
  • Having trouble adapting when a routine is changed
  • They have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
  • They can easily lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)

The Causes of Autism

While all the causes for autism are still unknown, over time, doctors have learned several common causes for multiple types of autism. There are different factors as to why a child may develop autism including environmental, biological, and genetic factors.

  • Most scientists agree that genes are one of the risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop autism.
  • Children who have a sibling with ASD are at a higher risk of also having autism.
  • Individuals with certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis, can have a greater chance of having autism.
  • When taken during pregnancy, the prescription drugs valproic acid and thalidomide have been linked with a higher risk.
  • There is some evidence that the critical period for developing autism occurs before, during, and immediately after birth.
  • Children born to older parents are at greater risk of having autism as well.

Autism continues to be one of the rising concerns for public health, many families who have individuals diagnosed with autism or CDC are curious to find out what caused it and how. Being able to understand these factors may help us understand the disorder better.

Diagnosing Autism

Normally, diagnosing autism is comparatively difficult since there is no medical test to conclude. Doctors usually need to examine the child, his/her behavior, and development to reach an efficient diagnosis.

Autism can usually be detected as young as 18 months, and by the age of 2, a diagnosis by a professional is considered extremely reliable. However, most children do not receive a diagnosis as early. Especially, in countries like Pakistan where there is little to no awareness regarding the disorder; families tend to ignore such signs and assume that they’ll go away themselves without realizing that they may be making life difficult for their children.


Until now, there is no permanent cure for autism. However, it can be controlled or suppressed with the use of medication or certain treatments. Such early intervention services can help children from birth to the age of 3 to learn crucial skills.

Such early intervention services for autism include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and socialize with others. Therefore, it is always wise to consult a doctor whenever you feel like your child is having difficulties or going through a developmental problem.

Whether your child is diagnosed with autism or not, you can still enroll them for early intervention services, since such services make sure that a child between birth to 3 years old does not get a developing disorder. Additionally, treatment for symptoms, such as speech therapy for language delays, often does not need to wait for a formal ASD diagnosis.

Autism: Coping, Support, and Living Well

If you think your child or someone around you may have autism, you need to immediately contact your doctor and if your doctor seems concerned, you must consult a specialist. Specialists will be able to make a more in-depth diagnosis for the patient. Such specialists are:

  • Developmental Pediatricians (doctors who have special training in child development and children with special needs)
  • Child Neurologists (doctors who work on the brain, spine, and nerves)
  • Child Psychologists or Psychiatrists (doctors who know about the human mind)

Types of Treatment

Moreover, there are multiple treatments available for autism, these include:

  1. applied behavioral analysis,
  2. social skills training,
  3. occupational therapy,
  4. physical therapy,
  5. sensory integration,
  6. the use of assistive technology.

Disability Not Weakness

While there is no cure or outcome for autism, it is empirical to realize that your disabilities are not what define you. They are not your weakness, and they certainly do not hold you back. Even though autism does make everyday life a little bit more troublesome, however, with the right treatment and attention- there’s nothing to worry about.

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Keep your chins up, and keep thriving!

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