What is Wrong with You: Children with Autism. Autism can occur in as many as 22 of every 10,000 births (COSAC 3). It knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. The causes of the disorder are unknown; therefore no cure can be determined. It is a subject of debate and controversy among establish pediatrans. Autism is poorly understood and extremely misrepresented. Autism is a behavior disease that controls the mind; it manifests itself at an early age. It impairs communication and social skills. "It encompasses a broad spectrum of disorders that range from mild to severe," (AUTISMINFO.com). To quote Dr. Temple Grandin, "Autistics live in their `own world.’ Highly functioning autistics live in two worlds; `their world’ and the `outside world’." Many autistics describe their world as thinking in pictures. Autism is not a progressive disorder. Although it manifests itself at an early age, it doesn’t worsen as a child ages (WebofCare.com). However, autism isn’t a condition a child will grow out of. "Autism doesn’t occur because of inadequate parenting. The causes of autism are unknown, therefore prevention isn’t possible" (Autism: Basic Information 9). Dr. Leo Kanzer, a child psychologist at John Hopkins Medical School, first diagnosed autism in 1943. Dr. Kanner noted the behavior of 11 children between 1938 and 1944. He observed characteristics of isolation, withdrawal from human contact, and social and communication abilities. Most early theories of the causes of autism focused on the family environment. However, through studies of emotional tension within the family indicated extreme stress of caring for children with autism was likely what brought on the emotional difficulties. These difficulties are not the source but a result of the disorder. In the 1960s there were great leaps in the understanding of the causes of autism. Research demonstrated that the condition is the result of neurological and biochemical abnormalities in the brain. Symptoms and characteristics were identified, serving to distinguish autism from other conditions. This separation is helpful in moving towards better treatment and understanding of the condition. Because autism is a full spectrum disorder, a child with autism may exhibit a range of symptoms from mild to severe. There is no one treatment that is consistently effective. It is likely that children will benefit from a program of treatments tailored to his or her specific needs and capabilities. Autistics are often hyper (over) or hypo (under) sensitive to the five senses (AUTISMINFO.com). For example, a typical individual has no problem walking down the street. However, autistic individuals may be oblivious to the sounds of sirens or screeching brakes. On the other hand; the autistic may be bothered by vivid colors on flowers. It can be such an intense experience that the individual can’t concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. Autistics also can have insensitivity to pain. Many parents often find unexplained cuts or bruises on their autistic children (COSAC). Some autistics have no apparent fear of real dangers. They have been found to walk in front of cars or fall out of windows (UPDATE 2). Because of impaired mental ability, outsiders have trouble with social interactions. Autistic children have difficulties mixing with regular children. There can also be an absence of eye contact. When directly in front of the child, they may look in every other direction except the individual in front of them (OutReach 4). Autistics also have trouble "fitting in" because of an apathetic interest in what other children are doing. They tend to be passive or don’t want to be touched. On the other hand; autistics can also have an interest in what others are doing. They can become overly aggressive or have a crying tantrum for no apparent reason (COSAC). Many autistics are considered obsessive compulsive (COSAC). They tend to line up or stack objects despite the fact that their uneven motors skills can prevent strait lines or columns. They have also been known to become inappropriately attached to material objects (Hyde 134) such as eating utensils. Children with autism typically have deficits in verbal and non-verbal communication (COSAC). Autistic children are often echolalic which means they respond to repeating the words spoken to them. This repetition is involuntary. They don’t have the mental capabilities for verbal communication. Needs are often indicated by gestures instead of a verbal request (AUTISMINFO.com). Because autism is rare, many professionals have not observed enough cases to be able to recognize the often-subtle distinctions between autism and similar disorders; moreover, the relationship between autism and mental retardation has been a source of confusion for several decades. Autistics may have intellectual impairments that resemble mental retardation; however, they may have intellectual strengths. PDD (Pervasive Development Disorder) is a descriptive rather than a diagnostic term. It is used when autistic symptoms are present, but the full spectrum of disorders necessary as autistic is not met (Autism: Basic Information 10). The PPD category is very broad. Some examples are as follows. Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is named for Dr. Hans Asperger, a pioneer in autism research. AS is characterized by severe, sustained, social impairment and restrictive, repetitive patterns of behavior interests and activities (Autism: Perspective 34). However, AS shows no significant delays in language cognitive or self-help skills and adaptive behavior. Children with AS are typically diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9 (UPDATE). First recognized by Andreas Rett in 1966, Rett Syndrome is a neurological disorder that affects primarily females (AUTISMINFO.com). While children afflicted with Rett Syndrome often exhibit behavior typical of autism, autopsies shown this is a separate disease. While the causes are unknown, it seems likely to be genetic in origin. CDD is an acronym for Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. A rare condition, CDD resembles autism in so far as people with CDD have social, tactile, and communicational deficits (WebofCare.com). CDD children develop this condition only after a relatively lengthy period of development (2 to 4 years) (COSAC). Twice as common in males as in females (Autism: Basic Information 22) Landau-Kleffner Syndrome manifests itself as loss of language. It usually develops between 3 and 7 years (Autism: Perspectives). Initially, children with this disorder lose their ability to understand language, then their ability to speak. These changes maybe gradual or sudden. Autistic characteristics seen in Landou-Kleffner Syndrome individuals include insensitivity to pain, aggressive behavior, and poor eye contact, insistence on sameness and sleep problems. It is important to understand autism is a disorder rather than a disease. Evidence indicates that autism can be treated effectively and that some characteristics of the disorder can be modified or even eliminated. Some individuals with autism have exhibited low tolerance or allergies for a variety of substances such as yeast and gluten. Although no studies have conclusively shown that modifying the individuals diet affects the symptoms of autism, some parents and professionals have reported beneficial changes through dietary modification and vitamin therapies. Many treatment programs include methods of improving or increasing communication skills. Depending on the individual’s, level of development, speech therapy may focus on verbal skills or sign language. The therapist many introduce communication skills such as picture boards or electronic devices. Many approaches will include methods of dealing with behaviors of autistics. Some programs aim at determining what seems to instigate inappropriate conduct. Other programs are based on learning new skills such as communication or object recognition. These programs may be applied at home, school or in the workplace. Autism is a severely incapacitating disorder in a range of symptoms; while the causes of autism are obscure this is a treatable condition. Treatments may reduce or eliminate some characteristics of the disorder. Early diagnosis and interventions are essential. Although there is no cure for autism, there is hope. With proper therapies children with autism can grow into individuals that can benefit society. Autistic can hold jobs and raise families. Huge strides have been made in trying to find a cure. "There are many parents, doctors, researchers, and educators working hard everyday with the common goal of finding a cause and cure," (AUTISMINFO.com).
Bibliography Works Cited
AUTISM: Basic Information third edition. The New Jersey Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community Inc. 1995. Autism Home Page. Online Internet. 22 Feb. 2000. Available http://www.gatetech.edu/users/bmiddlebrook.html AUTISM: A Lifetime of Service Options. New Jersey Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community, Inc. 1998. AUTISM: Perspectives on the Family. New Jersey Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community, Inc. 1998. "What is Autism." COSAC 1995. Gladsberg, Beth "Research in Genetic Etiology of Autism." OutReach Fall/Winter 1999: 3+ Hyde, Margaret O. Is This Child Crazy?. Philadelphia: The West Minister Press, 1983 Potio, Paul A. "Autism Awareness." Update. Winter 1999: 2+ Sandler, Adrian D. "Lack of Benefit of a Single Does of Synthetic Human Secretin in the Treatment of Autism." The New England Journal of Medicine (1999): 24 Stewart, Mark A. Raising a Hyperactive Child. Random House, 1970. Web of Care. Online. Internet. 22 Feb. 2000. Available http://www.webofcare?section=cs.plate=whatis.htlm Word Count: 1328