Autistic spectrum disorder, otherwise known as autism, is a complex disorder of the central nervous system and a developmental disability that comes from a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain. (Dowshen, 2008). It is not something one can catch or pass along to someone else. It makes interacting with other people incredibly difficult. Autism was first identified in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital. Autism spectrum disorder can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3, however new research is pushing back the age of diagnosis to as early as six months.
Autism is a developmental disorder that makes it very difficult for one to communicate with others and live a normal life. (What is Autism? An Overview, 2008) The cause of autism remains undiscovered, however many researchers believe autism is linked to differences in brain chemicals and neurotransmitters. No one has yet to have a definite answer as to where these differences come from, however; many believe the differences are in our genes. Some also believe that maternal rubella, PKU, encephalitis, and meningitis may predispose a child to it.
It is somewhat more common in particular families, but not inherited in any recognizable pattern. Doctors often tell families who have one child with autism that research shows they have a very high risk of having another child with autism or a similar disorder. (eMedicineHealth, 2009). According to the statistics provided by the National Institute of Health, the Centers of Disease Control & Prevention, and the U. S. Department of Education, 1. 5 million Americans are afflicted with autism. It is the fastest growing developmental disability affecting the United States today.
Today, 1 in every 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. (Foundation, 2012). Autism is 50 times more common in siblings of autistic children than it is in the general population, although it occurs 3 to 4 times more frequently in boys than in girls. If one identical twin is autistic, it is almost certain that the other twin will be too. Oregon is the state with the highest reported rate of autism in the country. (Dennis Wall, 2012). One in every 250 youths between the ages of 6 and 21 has been diagnosed with autism.
In some counties, such as Lane County, one in every 91 youths are autistic. However approximately 20% of autistic children can eventually live independently. (Larson, 2000). The best way to identify autism is to watch how a child behaves and communicates with other people. Parents can help by telling the doctor how the child acts at home and about their failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe their child as developing normally and then lost skills. (Susan Cole, 2009).
A team of specialists, including psychologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, speech therapists, and developmental pediatricians will evaluate the child and compare levels of development and behavior with those of other kids the same age. Together, they will decide whether the child has autism or something else. At birth, the autistic child appears normal. Within the first 30 months, he or she becomes increasingly unresponsive to the environment. The child may not speak, may develop obsessive routines, may deliberately injure themselves, may become hyperactive, may have seizures, or may respond with severe tantrums to any sudden changes. What is Autism? An Overview, 2008). People with this disease virtually lack or have no social interaction skills. They appear normal physically, however, their intellectual ability ranges widely. Autism cause kids to experience the world differently from the way most other kids do, for example, kids with autism often cannot make connections that other kids make easily. They have very poor communication and they appear to live in their own world. They are extremely unresponsive to other people, and repulsed by physical contact. For that reason, being touched, even in a gentle way may feel incredibly uncomfortable.
People with autism may react to what is going on around them in unusual ways. Normal sounds such as rain, thunder, car horns, sirens, or yelling may really bother someone with autism. (Susan Cole, 2009). The autistic child often times does not speak, but may only mimic sounds made by others. The repetitive movements of machinery, such as fans, which they stare at long and fixedly, fascinate many autistic individuals. They may also spend long periods engaged in stereotypes: repeated movements such as rocking, twirling, flapping of hands, or twisting of fingers. People with autism are unreasonably persistent on routines.
The autistic child gets very upset over even the slightest change in his or her environment. In addition, they have difficulty naming objects, and they make bizarre facial expressions and gestures. (Larson, 2000). A number of other associated symptoms coexist with autism. Language delay in the preschool years (5v) is typically the presenting problem for more severely affected children with autism. Higher functioning children with autism are generally identified with behavioral problems when they are aged 4-5 years of age or with social problems later in childhood. Foundation, 2012). Autism is a life altering disease for not only the child that has it, but also for their parents and families too. Many parents show up to counseling hopeless, angry, and defeated. They arrive with not only broken hearts, but in some cases physically hurt from the violence of their autistic child. A very good amount of autistic children have very bad tempers. As a result, numerous parents end up quitting their jobs to care for their autistic child. (Packard, 2009).
Many people with autism also have other disorders of the central nervous system, such as developmental disabilities, epilepsy, or schizophrenia. However, not all children with autism are severely impacted. Autism persists through a person’s lifetime, although many people are able to learn to control and modify their behavior to some extent. Some people are affected fairly mildly; several of these individuals learn to live independent lives. Others more severely affected, require lifelong care and supervision. (Dowshen, 2008). Most families of autistic children also learn to get support from their arents and other children with autism. Some children with mild autism will grow up and be able to live on their own. Those with problems that are more serious will always need some kind of help, but all kids with autism have brighter futures when they have support and understanding from their doctors, teachers, caregivers, parents, brothers, sisters, and friends. (Dowshen, 2008). At this point in time there is no cure for autism, but doctors, therapists, and special teachers can help kids with autism overcome or adjust to many difficulties they have to face.
The earlier a child starts treatment for autism, the better because the best results are usually seen with kids who begin treatment when they are very young and as soon as they are diagnosed. (Harvard Medical School, 2003). Different kids need different kinds of help, but learning how to communicate is always an important first step. Spoken language can be hard for kids with autism to learn, therefore most understand words better by seeing them. Autism is not treated with surgery or medicine, however some children take medications to help their moods and behavior, nonetheless there is no medicine that will make a person’s autism go away.
A treatment program will be designed and may include any of the following: speech therapy, physical therapy, music therapy, changes in diet, medication, occupational therapy, and hearing or vision therapy. The same specialists who helped diagnose the condition usually work together to come up with the best combinations of therapies to use in addition to the education program. (eMedicineHealth, 2009). Students with mild autism can sometimes go to regular school, but most of the time kids with autism need calmer, more orderly surroundings.
They also need teachers trained to understand the problems they have communicating and learning. They may learn at home or in special classes at public or private schools. By the time they are teens, people with autism may be taking regular classes, attending special classes at the high school level, or attending a special school because of ongoing behavioral problems. (Larson, 2000). Our improving understanding of autism has shown that, regardless of the severity of the condition, appropriate treatment and education can eventually help many children with autism to be integrated into their community.
Scientists have put forth many theories about why children with autism struggle to communicate with other people, but have yet to find definite answers. (What is Autism? An Overview, 2008). Currently, a research team at Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital are recruiting autistic and naturally developing children and their parents for a study of whether one particular biological mechanism plays a role in causing the disorder. The researchers will test whether impaired social behaviors in autism are linked to levels of the hormone oxytocin.
In healthy individuals, oxytocin primes maternal behavior, enhances social interactions, increases the ability to read facial expressions and recognize individuals, and boosts trust and empathy. Preliminary research has hinted that autism may be associated with oxytocin defects, but those studies involved very limited samples. (Packard, 2009). There are many exciting new developments in autism research going on at top universities. They are mostly focusing on inherited autism and autism gene research. Nevertheless, research will continue until the cause and cure for autism is discovered.
Dennis Wall, R. D. -Y. (2012). Use of Artificial Intelligence to Shorten the Behavioral Diagnosis of Autism. PLOS ONE, Volume 7, Issue 8. Dowshen, S. (2008). Autism. Kids Health, 32-33. eMedicineHealth. (2009, February 25). Autism. Retrieved from eMedicineHealth: http://www. emedicinehealth. com/autism/page10_em. htm Foundation, T. N. (2012). What is Autism? Retrieved from TeensHealth: http://kidshealth. rg/teen/diseases_conditions/learning/autism. html Larson, M. (2000). Mayo Clinic Family Healthbook. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc. Packard, L. (2009). Autism. Medical News Today, 7-15. School, H. M. (2003). Family Health Guide. New York: Simon & Schuster Source. Susan Cole, M. (2009, February 19). What is Autism? Retrieved from Introduction to Autism: http://www. autism-pdd. net/what-is-autism. html What is Autism? An Overview. (2008, March 22). Retrieved from Autism Speaks: http://www. autismspeaks. org/