Ask the doctor: How are some autistic children highly talented?

The peculiar behavioral traits of autism are signs of Rett syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the brain. Photo: Shutterstock

Q: Some children with autism won’t be able to do anything but others are highly talented. How come there is such a difference? – XYZ, Palakkad.
A: Medical science nowadays uses the nomenclature Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ‘spectrum’ denotes ‘different behavioral traits’. People with ASD will have difficulty in social communication, repetitive body movements, and peculiar behavioral patterns. A decision on whether a person has autism or not is taken solely based on the peculiarity of the behavior and not based on any anomaly in the structure of the brain or its functioning.

In other words, autism is a condition not triggered by any peculiar disease or a glitch in the functioning of the brain. However, studies have shown that diseases affecting the brain and other factors can lead to autism. Chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome, genetic disorders, diseases affecting the brain of a baby just before or after birth, and defects in hormones like thyroid hormones can result in autistic behavioral patterns. The peculiar behavioral traits of autism are signs of Rett syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the brain. As there is a multitude of reasons that trigger autism, there is a huge difference between the special abilities and behavioral patterns of autistic children. It is possible to lead a normal life only when different parts of the brain function in a balanced way.

However, the brain won’t function in a balanced manner among children with autism. While certain parts of the brain are functioning properly, others are not up to the mark. We all know that fever and jaundice are not diseases but symptoms of some other ailments. The same may be the case with autism as in the future we may find that autism is a symptom of different diseases that affect the brain.
(Courtesy: Dr P Krishnakumar/Manorama)

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