After more than one and a half years of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, doctors in Hyderabad are witnessing a peculiar trend. Several children between the age of two to six years are exhibiting autism-like symptoms. Common autism-like traits such as no eye contact, delay in speech development, and repetitive behaviour are being increasingly observed in this age group.
Even though the symptoms closely resemble autism, in most of these cases, children went back to typical behaviour with the help of therapy. It implies that children showing improvement post-therapy weren’t autistic in the first place. Doctors believe that the underlying reason for developing autism-like symptoms is the lack of social exposure.
Speaking about the development, paediatric intensivist, and neonatologist, Dr Satish Ghanta told TOI that a lack of physical contact, poor social contact, little to no physical activity, and increased screen time can have a deep impact on the brain. He also added, “Around 20% toddlers in the outpatient program were exhibiting such symptoms. However, once the root causes are addressed, most get better.”
The same report cites the director of the Intensive Care Services at Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Dr Dinesh Kumar Chirla saying that he has been attending to six to seven such cases per week for almost a year now. He was quoted as saying, “As paediatricians when such cases are presented to us, we suspect it as autism and refer the child for a detailed psychological analysis. The ones who had symptoms due to lack of social exposure bounce back with the help of speech and other therapies.”