There is a very fascinating quote about “the mind that sometimes you change your mind and sometimes your mind changes you”. Everyone of us knows the truth that the key to a healthy body starts from a healthy brain. Our brain power increases with its use like our body strength increases with exercise. But still there are many medical conditions that can challenge the strength, ability and capability of our mind or brain and one of such conditions is autism or autism spectrum disorder. In this article we will discuss complete detail about autism or autism spectrum disorder. So let’s get started.
An Austrian american psychiatrist and physician, Leo Kanner first described Autism in 1943. In one of his articles related to autism he has mentioned that children with delayed echolalia which is meaningless repetition of other person’s spoken words and having difficulty in maintaining sameness in their lives can be considered autistic. But he also mentioned that these children are really gifted in terms of intelligence and not to forget they have an extraordinary memory. These observations led Leo Kanner to consider autism as a psychiatric condition. He observed that Autism is an emotional disturbance rather than a developmental or cognitive one.
History Of Autism
In 1970’s various researches have suggested that autism was a condition that was actually rooted in brain development. Later in 1980’s the third edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM) mentioned that autism is a pervasive developmental disorder. As this condition was named childhood schizophrenia before the third edition of DSM after DSM-3 it was announced that it is separate from schizophrenia and is established as a separate diagnosis. Before DSM-3 there was no specific criteria that is necessary for an autism diagnosis but DSM-3 there are specific characteristics that are necessary to be observed in a patient.
Now, Coming On To Essential Characteristics Of Autism!!!
Three Characteristics of Autism
These three characteristics have to develop within the first 30 months of life. That’s why it is recognized as a developmental disorder.
So coming back to characteristics. These characteristics are as follows:
- Severe impairment in communication
- Lack of interest in people
- Bizzare responses to the environment
Though later autism was given a broader concept in late 1987 and a term called “pervasive developmental disorder- not otherwise specified” was added for mild autism . The 30 month requirement was removed and the definition of Autism became more and more. Then, with growing understanding Autism was termed as a spectrum of conditions and 16 criteria were listed out of which 8 must be there to meet in order to get a proper diagnosis.
Present Scenario Regarding Autism Or Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Presently, Autism spectrum disorders are a diverse group of conditions whose characteristics are generally detected in early childhood.
- Out of one in 160 children are suffering from autism spectrum disorder.
- The abilities and needs of such individuals vary as well as evolve with time.
- The individuals who are disabled require life long care and support buton the other hand some can live independently.
- People with Autism are often subject to stigma, discrimination and human rights violations.
- In may 2014, the sixty seventh world health assembly adopted a resolution entitled comprehensive and coordinated efforts for management of autism spectrum disorders and is supported by 60 different countries.
After reading all of the above, you might be thinking what are the basic signs and symptoms of Autism in a child. So let us understand these signs and symptoms in detail.
Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders
The individual with ASD has a difficulty in social communication and interactions. In addition they have restricted interests and repetitive behaviors.
Social communication or interaction behaviors may include:
- Making little or inconsistent eye contact.
- Tending to not listen or look at people.
- Sharing enjoyment of objects or activities rarely (like sharing enjoyment by pointing or showing things to others).
- Failing to respond or respond to someone calling their names.
- Having difficulties with back and forth of conversation.
- Often talk about their favorite things or subjects without noticing that others are not interested.
- Having facial gestures, expressions and movements that do not match with what they have said.
- Repetitive unusual tone of voice which may sound like sing-song or flat like a robot.
- Difficulty in understanding another person’s point of view and unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.
Restrictive or repetitive behaviours includes:
- Repeating certain behaviours or having some kind of unusual behaviours like repeating words or phrases.
- Having interest in certain points such as numbers, details and facts.
- Some overly focused interests like moving objects or parts of objects.
- Getting too upset by slight or minor changes in a routine.
- Individuals are more or less sensitive than other people to sensory input like light, touch, temperature, noise, clothing etc.
The above mentioned signs and symptoms can be understood as following 10:
- Emotional Sensitivity
- Fixation on particular ideas or subjects
- Linguistic Oddities
- Social Difficulties
- Difficulty processing physical sensations
- Devotion to routine
- Development of restrictive or repetitive habits
- Focus on self
- Dislike of change
- Unusual movement patterns
Causes of Autism
The causes of autism are not known. Some studies have shown that genes can play a very important role in the onset of Autism spectrum disorders. In others there are certain risk factors like having siblings with ASD or older parents, having certain genetic conditions like down syndrome, fragile X syndrome and rett syndrome. Even in some cases very low birth weight is also considered as the reason for autism spectrum disorders.
Brain Synapses And Autism
The Columbia university medical center has done a lot of study regarding children and adolescents with autism. According to them, individuals with autism have a surplus of brain synapses. So moving further let’s just fill our minds with some knowledge about brain synapses.
Brain synapses are basically the small gaps at the end of a neuron that allows a signal to pass from one neuron to the next. Synapses are found where nerve cells connect with other nerve cells. These synapses are the key to brain function, when it comes to memory.
So what happens to the brain synapses when a person is Autistic?
In autistic individuals there is a surplus of synapses which, as mentioned before, are responsible for passing signals from one neuron to another or from one brain cell to another. This surplus is the result of slow synaptic pruning.
Now the next question arises: what is Synaptic Pruning?
In simple words synaptic pruning is a natural process that happens in the brain between early childhood and adulthood. During this process the brain eliminates extra synapses. Synaptic pruning is basically the brain’s way of removing some extra connections which are no longer needed.
So this is how an autistic person is said to have a “Surplus of synapses”. The above explanation clearly suggests that individuals with autism have:
- Too much connections between their brain cells or neurons.
- These connections do include connections which are no longer required.
Importance Of Synaptic Pruning
Synaptic pruning is a process of elimination and this process of elimination is key to forming a healthy, adaptive brain. But if the brain synapses process is slow then one can face long term consequences in terms of brain wiring along with behavioural problems. It can give rise to schizophrenia along with some other neurodevelopmental disorders.
Reason for delayed or slow Synaptic Pruning
As so far we have understood about the synaptic pruning, the readers must have a question that in autism what can be the possible reason for slow synaptic pruning?
The synaptic pruning defect is directly related to a protein called mTOR (Mammalian target rapamycin) which is a protein kinase that regulates protein synthesis and cell growth in response to growth factors, nutrients, energy levels and stress.
You might be wondering whether mTOR is good or bad?
Basically, mTOR is responsible for the slow process of synaptic pruning. So, obviously mTOR is not good for synapses. More the amount of mTOR, slower the synapse pruning will happen. Thus, causing overloading of the brain with connections and hence producing restrictive behaviour along with sensitivity to surrounding, colors, temperature, noises etc.
In the article so far we have discussed autism and autism spectrum disorders. So you might be thinking about the meaning of autism spectrum disorder. So let’s just see what is kept under Autism spectrum disorders.
Autism Spectrum Disorders
The following types of conditions are kept under autism spectrum disorders which were once thought to be separate. It includes:
- Asperger’s Syndrome
- Autistic Disorder
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder
1. Asperger’s Syndrome
In this the child is not having problems with language but has social problems along with a very narrow scope of interest. They tend to score more than average in intelligence tests.
2. Autistic Disorder
This is what most of the people understand when they hear the word autism. This refers to problems with social interactions, communication and play in children below the age of 3 years.
3. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
The children with this disorder have a typical development for at least two years but then lose some or most of the communication and social skills.
4. Pervasive Developmental Disorder
It is a term used if the child has some sutistic behaviour like social detachment, delayed social communication skills.
Above all is about what history modern science has of autism and what it has to say about autism. But now we will discuss what Ayurveda includes regarding this condition.
Ayurveda and Autism
Ayurveda explains human existence due to the combination of satva, which is mind, atma, which is spirit and shreer, which is the physical body. In Ayurveda the Autism spectrum disorder is considered as a behavioral abnormality whose roots are embedded in the defect in the neuropsychological platform with some derangement in the digestive as well as metabolic system.
Whether typical or atypical autism along with all disorders depicting features of autism is kept under the category of unmada.
The definition of Unmada suggests that the person who incorporates various forms of inappropriate behaviour due to the distorted mind, intellect, conscious knowledge, manner, desire, memory and behaviour.
The impaired faculties in unmada are also seen in autism spectrum disorders. The impairment includes:
Manas- Mind (total or partial loss of sensory perception).
Buddhi- intellect (partially affected).
Samjna Jnana- Conscious presence (lost in their own world).
Seela- Manners (inappropriate emotional outbursts and stick or adhere to a specific routine).
Cheshta- Activities (Motor stereotypes which are inappropriate and compulsive).
Achara- Learnt skills (impaired social skills, inability to follow specific commands).
So, all of that totally explains that acquisition of knowledge, which is the most important function of manas, is disturbed in the unamada. The acquisition of knowledge only happens when manas is in tune with Atma (soul), indriya (sense organ) and indriyathna (objects).
If we consider this condition genetic even in Ayurveda then the credit goes to Antenatal psychological stress to mother, viruddha ahara sevan by mother (toxic combinations) which disturbs the gut brain axis, defective parental genes has a key role in etiopathology of unmada and ASD.
Some managing tips for Autism in Ayurveda
There are three classical therapeutic ways in Ayurveda advocated for the management of unmada and the same can be applied in Autism spectrum disorder. They are:
- Daiva Vyapasraya (Confidence building treatment)
- Yukti Vyapasraya (Rational Medical Management)
- Satvavajaya (Mind or self control techniques)
The rational Ayurveda Treatment is carried out in 4 parts. These Are:
- Samsamana chikitsa (Dosha pacification therapy)
- Sanshodhana chikitsa (Panchakarma chikitsa)
- Nidana parivarjan (avoidance of causative factors)
- Pathya Ahara Vihara (Favourable diet and regimens)
In cases like Autism aacharya charak has mentioned the above line of treatment.
The duration of panchakarma therapy could range from 3 to 5 weeks depending on the severity of the condition. The formulations or herbal medications are also guided in this case.
Medya Rasayan In Autism
Medya Rasayan is the group of four main herbs that have effective curative properties. The medya rasayan is mentioned by Aacharya charak and these are:
- Mandukaparni Swaras
- Mulethi Churna with milk
- Guduchi Swaras
- Shankhpushpi with root and flower
The charak has also mentioned that juice of these herbs must be taken with 10-20 of madhu or honey. It can be taken in the morning as well as in the evening. Shankhpushpi must be crushed, then mixed well in milk.
These all are known to enhance age, get rid of all type of disorders, provide strength, and enhance digestion along with complexion and voice. Most importantly it increases dharan shakti and shankhpushpi especially enhances intellect and intelligence.
In simple words if we describe autism then it is a condition where the randomness of life collides and clashes with an individual’s need for the sameness. People with such conditions are really hard to handle sometimes and many of them remain undiagnosed like Rizwan khan (a character played by Shahruk khan in Movie ‘My name is khan’) who was having asperger’s syndrome which is a kind of high functioning Autism. So I guess from this example all of the readers who managed to reach the conclusion of this article now have a clear picture of an Autistic individual in their minds. In case of any query kindly visit www.planetayurveda.com.