What is Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors. The effects of ASD and the severity of symptoms are different in each person.

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Dr Robin Friedlander, MD, FRCPC, Child Psychiatrist, discusses What is Autism?

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Children with autism spectrum disorder are more likely to have epilepsy.

Research shows that nearly half of all autistic people have epilepsy. People with epilepsy are also more likely than others to have autism. One theory why there is a connection between autisma and epilepsy is that both share common biological mechanisms.

There is a special diet that children with autism should follow.

There is no one diet for children with autism. However, some studies have shown that removing gluten and casein from the diet may relieve digestive problems. Many children with autism experience digestive issues such as gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD), excessive gas, diarrhea and constipation due to allergies, intolerances and feeding problems.

Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy are more likely to have a child with autism.

There is no evidence that alcohol use contributes to autism spectrum disorder. While experts aren't sure exactly what causes ASD, research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic and environmental influences.

Regular exercise can cure some types of autism spectrum disorder.

While there is no cure for autism, studies show that exercise can be greatly beneficial for people with autism. Physical activity can help people with ASD improve motor skills, develop social skills and reduce problem behaviors.

Asperger syndrome is a type of autism spectrum disorder.

Asperger syndrome is a type of autism spectrum disorder that physicians often call "high-functioning ASD." The symptoms are less severe than other types of autism spectrum disorders. People with Asperger syndrome typically have trouble with social skills and non-verbal communication.
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Dr. Robin Friedlander, MD, FRCPC, Child Psychiatrist, discusses Sleep Disorders and Autism

Helping Children With Autism Improve Social Interaction Skills

One of the problems and core features of autism is difficulties in social interaction.

Sometimes as the children get a little older, they want to have interactions with other children but they don’t know how. So they may barge into a conversation, and the other kids look at them and are not very tolerant because they don’t understand that the kid doesn’t really get it.

There are certain un-returned intrinsic rules of social interaction that most of us just get. We just get it. It’s somehow hardwired into us.

Other children and autistic children in particular have to have these rules of social engagement taught; otherwise, they get upset, the other kids get upset and it’s not good. And what’s worse, these kids get very frustrated and can end up getting aggressive.

One example of what can be done for children with autism who have these problems in social interaction is to train them in social skills. An example of this is to work to develop a script as if you’re in a movie on what to do when you meet other children.

Apart from the social script training, we also use a lot of picture communication training so children with autism often have real problems with language and we all know that a picture can tell a thousand words so we use a picture that maybe reminds the child what to do when they meet another child which might be a picture of the child waving and saying hello, might be as simple as that.

If your child is exhibiting any of these signs that suggest autism, you need to contact your family doctor, pediatrician and get referred for a diagnose of autism which is usually done by a psychologist or a psychiatrist who’s trained in the diagnosis of autism.

Presenter: Dr. Robin Friedlander, Psychiatrist, Burnaby, BC

Local Practitioners: Psychiatrist

Sleep Disorders and Autism

Children with neuro-developmental disorders such as autism have significant problems with sleep.

Why do they have problems with sleep? It’s probably because they don’t develop a good circadian rhythm, a really good simple way for physicians and psychologists to decide if it’s a sleep problem is to use a short questionnaire called the BEARS, B – E – A –R – S.

And what we assess is the bedtime routine, that’s the “B.” “E” stands for where the child has excessive daytime sleepiness. “A” where the child has repeated night awakenings, they wake up during the night, don’t go back to sleep. “R” is for sleep regularity and duration. And “S” is for snoring.

And the reason it’s broken down in that way is because each of those letters stands for a component of sleep that may need to be addressed in a different way. Local Registered Dietician 

Sleep problems are really important. If a child doesn’t sleep, they are grumpy the next day, they’re irritable, they’re more likely to be hyperactive and the families, the parents, are more likely to be the same because if the child doesn’t sleep, the parent doesn’t sleep. Local Psychiatrist

So treating sleep is one of those easy things to do for a physician that can make such a big difference in this child’s life and the quality of life for the family. It’s just like a pleasure to do.

Dr. Robin Friedlander, MD, FRCPC, Child Psychiatrist, discusses causes and diagnosis of behavioral problems with autism

Dr Robin Friedlander, MD, FRCPC, Child Psychiatrist, discusses Helping Children With Autism Improve Social Interaction Skills

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