What Is Autism?
Autism is a complex neurobehavioral disorder that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills and rigid, repetitive behaviors. The disorder covers a large spectrum of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment. It ranges in severity from a handicap that limits an otherwise normal life to a devastating disability that may require institutional care. Some of the different types of autism spectrum disorders include:
- Autistic disorder. This is what most people think of when they hear the word "autism." It refers to problems with social interactions, communication, and imaginative play in children younger than 3 years.
- Asperger's syndrome. These children don't have a problem with language -- in fact, they tend to score in the average or above-average range on intelligence tests. But they have the same social problems and limited scope of interests as children with autistic disorder.
- Pervasive developmental disorder or PDD -- also known as atypical autism. This is a kind of catch-all category for children who have some autistic behaviors but who don't fit into other categories.
- Rett syndrome. Known to occur mainly in girls, children with Rett syndrome start developing normally but begin to lose their communication and social skills. Beginning at the age of 1 to 4 years, repetitive hand movements replace purposeful use of the hands.
- Childhood disintegrative disorder: These children develop normally for at least two years and then lose some or most of their communication and social skills. This is an extremely rare disorder and its existence as a separate condition is a matter of debate among many mental health professionals.
What are some of the symptoms of ASD?
There is no single symptom that would lead to a diagnosis of autism. But someone who shows a number of the following characteristics and behaviours would likely be diagnosed with an ASD:
Children with autism generally have problems in three crucial areas of development — social interaction, language and behavior. But because autism symptoms and severity vary greatly, two children with the same diagnosis may act quite differently and have strikingly different skills. In most cases, though, children with severe autism have marked impairments or a complete inability to communicate or interact with other people.
Some children show signs of autism in early infancy. Other children may develop normally for the first few months or years of life, but then suddenly become withdrawn or aggressive or lose language skills they've already acquired.
Though each child with autism is likely to have a unique pattern of behavior, these are some common autism symptoms:
Fails to respond to his or her name
Appears not to hear you at times
Resists cuddling and holding
Appears unaware of others' feelings
Seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her own world
Doesn't ask for help or request things
Doesn't speak or has delayed speech
Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences
Doesn't make eye contact when making requests
Doesn't make eye contact when making requests
Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
Can't start a conversation or keep one going
May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn't understand how to use them
Doesn't appear to understand simple questions or directions
Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping
Develops specific routines or rituals and becomes disturbed at the slightest change
Moves constantly or extremely passive
May be fascinated by details of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car, but doesn't understand the "big picture" of the subject
May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch, and yet oblivious to pain
Does not engage in imitative or make-believe play
May have odd food preferences, such as eating only a few foods, or craving items that are not food, such as chalk or dirt
May perform activities that could cause self-harm, such as headbanging
Young children with autism also have a hard time sharing experiences with others. When read to, for example, they're unlikely to point at pictures in the book. This early-developing social skill is crucial to later language and social development.
As they mature, some children with autism become more engaged with others and show fewer disturbances in behavior. Some, usually those with the least severe problems, eventually may lead normal or near-normal lives. Others, however, continue to have difficulty with language or social skills, and the teen years can bring worse behavioral problems.
Most children with autism are slow to gain new knowledge or skills, and some have signs of lower than normal intelligence. Other children with autism have normal to high intelligence. These children learn quickly, yet have trouble communicating, applying what they know in everyday life and adjusting in social situations. A small number of children with autism are savants — they have exceptional skills in a specific area, such as art, math or music
When to see a doctor/Healthcare Practitioner (medical Therapists).
Babies develop at their own pace, and many don't follow exact timelines found in some parenting books. But children with autism usually show some signs of delayed development within the first year. If you suspect that your child may have autism, discuss your concerns with your doctor. The symptoms associated with autism can also be associated with other developmental disorders.The earlier that treatment begins, the more effective it will be.
Your doctor may recommend more developmental tests if your child:
Doesn't respond with a smile or happy expression by 6 months
Doesn't mimic sounds or facial expressions by 9 months
Doesn't babble or coo by 12 months
Doesn't gesture — such as point or wave — by 12 months
Doesn't say single words by 16 months
Doesn't say two-word phrases by 24 months
Loses previously acquired language or social skills at any age
How is ASD diagnosed?
There is no single test that will confirm that someone has an ASD. A diagnosis is based on the number and pattern of typical characteristics and on the observation of specific behaviours and disabilities.
Someone with a mild case could go undiagnosed for years, and it might only be detected when the person goes through a crisis that brings contact with professionals who are able to recognize the disorder.
What causes ASD?
Nobody's certain. It's generally accepted that autism is a neurological disorder. Research is focusing on genetics, differences in brain function, environmental factors, viral infections and immune responses and deficiencies and still ongoing.
How is autism treated?
There are different treatment options for Autism.It may include combining one or more treatment approaches.Some of the treatment approaches includes
Dieting:Depends on child.But from experience and parents testimonies,most hyperactive kids really benefit from being placed on Casein and gluten free diet.
Sensory Integration-which tends to treat the root cause of Sensory Processing Disorder,the main foundational effect of Autism of which other symptoms results from. This important treatment approach will later be expantiated on later.
Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) and Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI), Sonrise programs are designed to actively engage children with communication, socialization, learning and behavioural problems.
I shall be taking treatment approaches one by one on this blog.
I really would love for parents to network on this blog, share ideas and opinions concerning therapies, therapists, diet recipes and other issues concerning kids with special needs.
Your feedback would be really appreciated.
To read more: Autismspeaks.org, ont-autism.uoguelph.ca, nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/autism