You have probably seen movies such as Dustin Hoffman starred ‘Rainman’ and Shah Rukh Khan’s My Name is Khan. In both the films, the male lead protagonists play an autistic adult. Dyslexia, also an issue of learning disorder was beautifully talked about in ‘Amir Khan’s ‘Taare Zameer Par’. Movies are the best way for common people to understand these medical conditions. Today, on World Autism day, we have tried to decode both Autism and ADHD.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can seem similar. Adults and children with these conditions have a problem focusing. They can be impulsive or have a hard time communicating. These individuals are intelligent and only different than the others and in many ways special.
Autism and ADHD are neurodevelopmental disorders that impact the same brain functions. Studies have shown that two-thirds of the total affected children with ADHD show autism symptoms too. There is a thin line of difference between their characteristic symptoms, let’s learn about them in detail.
AUTISM – The Isolated Self
The word Autism is derived from a Greek word, ‘autos’ which means ‘self’. Autism can be diagnosed in children as early as 2 years of age and as late as 6-7 years of age. Each autistic child may show different symptoms. You cannot really categorise them into one. It is one of the syndromes that fall under the range of autism spectrum disorders.
Here are some of the distinct characteristics to look out for in an autistic child:
- They find difficulty in communicating with others
- They prefer to sit alone or play alone. Finds difficult to make friends.
- Sensory Dysfunction – cannot stand loud noises, strong smell or flavour.
- Repetitive Behaviour- Doing or saying the same things over and over again. For example, constantly clap hands.
The cause of Autism is largely genetic. So if diagnosed from start and treated well then it effectively reduces the symptoms.
How Do You Treat Autism?
– Most diagnosis is by the age of 2. Hence, an overall approach therapy- occupational, behavioural, medical, dietary and physical would help them to cope with the environment and other children better.
– Being oversensitive to touch, taste and sight, they tend to become picky eaters. They prefer to eat only a particular food item over and over again making them nutritional deficit. These deficits need to be addressed through supplements under the guidance of a doctor.
– Expose them to different varieties of the same food item. For example, if they eat apple jam, then the child will be open to trying apple pie or apple as a whole fruit.
– Usually, they are sensitive to foods containing casein (milk, paneer, curd), gluten (wheat, barley, oats) or preservatives (packaged food items). Try to eliminate these items one at a time and observe how they respond.
– Once the sensitivity is known, use substitutes for it. For example, in the case of casein, substitute their milk/paneer requirements with soybean milk/ tofu respectively.
– Gut health is compromised with a condition known as Leaky Gut (i.e. Gut is permeable to toxins and bacteria as they get absorbed or “leak” into the bloodstream). Long term studies have shown that bacteria B. Fragilis aids recovery from leaky gut and reduces the autistic syndrome.
– Medical therapy is important. The drugs that are given will not cure autism but will reduce anxiety and depression in the child. This will improve their learning and communication skills and make them more friendly and open.
ADHD is seen in both children and adults. It is usually difficult to identify in children before the age of 5. This is because being inattentive and hyperactive are normal traits shown by any toddler or child.
Its symptoms may or may not stand out clearly. Some of the symptoms include:
- Cannot focus on one task for a long time
- Difficulty in paying attention in class or in any given activity or discussion
- Always needs to move around. Cannot sit at one place.
- Usually responds or answers back without thinking much/ Impulsive behaviour
Along with behavioural therapy, diet also plays an important role in managing ADHD. Studies have shown that a diet high in sugar worsens the hyperactive trait in ADHD children. This is because sugars provide instant energy to the brain, so they tend to overthink, overreact more.
A well-balanced diet including veggies, fruits, complex carbs like high fibre cereals and more of proteins will slowly help in easing the symptoms.
Below is the list of foods to be avoided and included-
|Foods to be AVOIDED
|Foods to be INCLUDED
|High sugar-containing foods like candies, cakes, cookies, sweetened chocolates
|Dark chocolates loaded with berries,
Homemade date (Khajur) rolls or pieces of almonds, raisins. Homemade carrot halwa, sheera
|Fried Chips, wafers, ready to eat noodles
|Roasted Indian snacks like Chivda, bhel.
Plain or less of butter made popcorn.
Roasted peanuts and yellow channa.
Finger foods like sautee paneer, ragi wafers
|Flavoured cereals- cornflakes, milk powder mixes.
|Plain cornflakes – add In bananas, berries.
Dates milkshake, fruit smoothies, yoghurt
|Tetra pack fruit juices, colas, soda beverages
|Cut fruits and make popsicles out of it
|Refined products like maida based pasta, pizzas, burgers, junk items
|Choose whole wheat pizzas with more veggie toppings, make up a salad of the kids choice of veggies and fruits, present veggies inside a chapati roll.
There is no cure for autism and ADHD, but early intervention using skills-training and behaviour modification can yield excellent results.
To understand Autism better, tune into GOQii Play Coach Divya Thampi’s class on ‘Common Myths about Autism Spectrum Disorder‘ tonight at 8:30 PM on the GOQii App.