Common Health Challenges Autistic Children Face
Living with my daughter who is autistic has been challenging and life-transforming at the same time. There are days she would open up to me and we will have lots of fun playing different games. It always gives me joy watching her lovely smile.
There are terrifying days that she will have seizures and other complications and I will take her to the hospital in the middle of the night. Many times I wish I was given an early warning or noticed the early signs of autism. It would have better prepared me for the challenges.
I want to use this medium to encourage parents who are taking care of autistic children particularly those whose children are still toddlers. As they grow older, there are numerous health challenges that they may face. I will use this medium to highlight most of them for you so that you will prepare better for them and they won’t take you by surprise.
Sensory Imbalance Or Disorder
My daughter had great difficulty dealing with sensors like light, heat, smell, tastes, and sound. It was during my research about autism that I found out it is a common health challenge among children with ASD. Sound like the chiming of glass can easily make her blow her top. She would cover her ears and scream at the top of her voice. If it catches you unaware it can be very scary.
The brain of children with ASD lacks the ability to appropriately balance the senses
The brain of children with ASD lacks the ability to appropriately balance the senses. This makes it difficult for such children to properly express their emotion or respond to sensors. It is possible for a child with autism to fall and break an arm but won’t cry. There was this day that my daughter was playing with the candles on the dining table. She was smiling while burning herself. Tears left my eyes when I entered the dining room and saw her. I was glad I came at the right time or it might be worse. This is one of the reasons why autistic children need extra care. You have to have your eyes on them at all time.
Impaired Mental Functions
Certain areas of the brain of children on the autism spectrum may be weak and this becomes evident when they are tested. When I discovered my daughter was autistic, I took her for a test to see how far into the autism spectrum she was. When the test was carried out, her score on the visual skill was high but she scored really low on the language skills.
Obviously, my daughter was not the only one that had a lot of learning to do. As her mum, I knew I needed a lot of learning on my part to understand her condition so that I can care for her better. It took me 2 to 3 years of intense learning to be able to understand my daughter whenever she spoke. If you are meeting my daughter for the first time there are chances that you may not understand what she is saying.
This impaired mental function also puts them at a great risk of being prone to other mental conditions like anxiety, acting impulsively otherwise known as impulsive behavior, depression, and mood swings.
Seizures And Convulsion
There was a time when my daughter used to have as much as 3 to 4 seizures per week. The seizures were mild sometimes but other times her body pulsated so hard that I will break down and cry. I am glad that has reduced now but this is another common health challenge that people with autism face, particularly as teenagers. The report has it that 1 in 4 children with autism will have seizures with onset in early childhood or as teenagers.
1 in 4 children with autism will have seizures with onset in early childhood or as teenagers
The seizures are linked to abnormal electrical activities in the brain. The result usually ranges from body convulsion, loss of consciousness, staring spells, or unusual movements. High fever and lack of adequate sleep can exacerbate the situation. Electroencephalogram (EEG) is usually used to detect the presence of these electrical activities in the brain.
At the time when her convulsion was most potent and I took her to the hospital, a doctor prescribed anticonvulsants – which really helped. However, when anticonvulsants are used, it is always a good practice to use the lowest possible active dose.
Other Less Common Health Issues
Fragile X Syndrome
Fragile X Syndrome is usually an inherited form of mental retardation among children with autism. When viewed under the microscope, a part of the X chromosome is defective and when viewed under the microscope they look fragile. It is believed to affect about 2 in 5 autism patients.
As a parent with a child with autism condition, it is important to have them tested for fragile x syndrome especially if you are considering having a second child. Research has shown that there is a fifty percent chance that boys born to the same parents will have the syndrome. The incidence rate of fragile x syndrome for people with autism is put at 2 – 5 percent.
This is usually a scary diagnosis for people with autism. There was a time my daughter had a lot of relapsing health issues at the same time and the pediatrician said he will not rule out tuberous sclerosis. The checks were done and it turned out negative to my relief.
Tuberous sclerosis is rare and it is linked to genetic problems which lead to the development of benign tumors in different organs like the brain. According to studies, 1 in 4 percent of people with autism will likely have this condition. According to CDC, the relationship between ASD and tuberous sclerosis is unclear but the tumors occur more in children with ASD.
Physical Fitness Challenges
Studies suggest that adults and children with autism face the risk of inactive lifestyle and obesity. While the social and behavioral problems of autism are highlighted, the motor skills problems including coordination and balance are ignored. Motor or muscle problems start from infancy and this affects important milestone like sitting, walking, and crawling.