Autism remains to be a marvel in the field of medicine. It is a complex disorder that is not diagnosed medically but by behavioral observation and screening. Recent studies showed that one out of 110 children worldwide is considered to have some form of autism; this incidence is ten times higher than ten years ago.
Main features of Autism
1. impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication
2. repetitive or stereotyped behavior e.g. echolalia
Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood. Overt symptoms gradually begin after the age of six months, become established by age two or three years, and tend to continue through adulthood, although often in more muted form.
A person with autism may seem socially awkward, makes very little eye contact, has an aversion for physical contacts such as cuddling, incapable of empathizing with others, finds loud noises, some smell and lights unpleasant and quite shocking, and may often repeat words or phrases they hear – an event called echolalia. Moreover, they tend to be predictable and obsessive. The severity of the symptoms depends on the autism of the child.
Goal of Treatment
- To provide remedy from specific symptoms and improve quality of life.
Autism Nursing Management
1. The nurse must be able to familiarize the combination of symptoms associated with autism of the patient.
2. The nurse is the coordinator of therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of individual children.
3. During the treatment session, the nurse’s main goal is to provide safety. The nurse must ensure that unnecessary things that may harm the child are removed from the area. It is also important to let the other staff members know of the child’s special needs.
4. Apply appropriate behavioral strategies are implemented. One example is the applied behavioral analysis (ABA). This program uses a one-on-one teaching approach that reinforces the practice of various skills. The goal is to get the child close to normal developmental functioning.
5. Listen to the child, his parents and the caregivers. As a nurse, you have to be an effective channel of communication among these people.
1. Prescription of antipsychotic drugs, anxiolytics, and anticonvulsant drugs.
2. The medical management mostly involves the management of the symptoms as well as repetitive behavior that may harm the child.
3. Diet modification must also be stressed since these children must have some kind of special diet that will fit their lifestyle. Changing the diet or adding vitamin supplements may improve digestion and eliminate food intolerances or allergies, which may contribute to behavioral problems in autistic patients.
4. The physician must provide ample information about the special needs of the child and the available resources for the family to get in the community.
5. Proper follow-up on psychiatrists and child developmental specialists must be done routinely in order to prevent untoward physical and mental disabilities. Children with autism may have medical problems, mostly cardiac problems that must also be addressed equally during the course of care.
With early intervention and appropriate treatment, some autistic patients can function productively and attain some degree of independence. Most patients require lifelong assistance.
There are various centers and support group can be found here in the Philippines which will cater to the kind of care children with autism needs. The nurse has an important role in spreading this information and provide quality care for this spectrum of autism.