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Some Facts About Autism That Everyone Should Be Aware Of
It is a little known fact that the term “autism” was coined by the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, who used it to refer to adult schizophrenia. However, the connotations of the term were redefined in 1943 by Leo Kanner, who dissociated schizophrenia from autism, and associated it with the modern day understanding of the disorder. Both autism, and Autism Spectrum Disorders(ASD), are medical terms that are used to refer to a group of complex disorders of the brain that result in stunted development in skills of social interaction, and non-verbal and verbal communication.
Autistic children also tend to have habits that they repeat obsessively, like rocking.
ASDs have a unique effect on everyone who is diagnosed with it. The intensity of the situation may range from relatively to an extremely severe and chronic condition. Individuals with ASD manifest different symptoms, at various stages of development with varying severity.
The Different Categories Of ASDs
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a broad term used to name any, or all the following three subcategories:
- Asperger Syndrome: People with this condition are generally mildly autistic. Such people show an uncanny attraction towards certain activity patterns and habits. However, they do not manifest any signs of linguistic, or cognitive impairment.
- Autistic Disorder: This is also known as “classical autism”. Apart from significant constraints that are experienced in the child’s ability to keep facts and figures, there are also major delays in the development of language skills. A general reticence is observed in aspects of social interaction as well.
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder: Not Otherwise Specified(PDD-NOS): This is also known as atypical autism. All those who are diagnosed with some of the symptoms of Asperger syndrome and autism, but not all of them, are generally clubbed under this group. Children with PDD-NOS show mild symptoms of social reticence, and stunted communication skills.
Symptoms And Signs Of Autism
Although doctors diagnose the symptoms of autism in a child by the time he/she is three years of age, the advances in technology and medical science have led to major improvements in detection and treatment. Now, paediatricians and doctors can detect the tell-tale signs of autism in children who are just one-year-old. Here are some of the symptoms of autism:
- Autistic children stop responding to their names by the time they are a year old.
- By 14 months, such children stop pointing to new objects to express their interest.
- By 18 months, they stop playing games, like playing with toys and dolls.
- They generally avoid eye contact, and wish to be left alone.
- Autistic children are unable to comprehend moods and feelings of the surrounding people, or even of themselves, and fail to express such emotions in clear language.
- There is significant delay in the development of their communication skills.
- They generally show signs of echolalia, or obsessive repetition of words and phrases.
- They fail to comprehend questions, and give relevant answers.
- Such children are unable to adjust to sudden changes, like loud sounds or bright flashes of light.
- Autistic children show tendencies towards developing obsessive traits and habits, like rocking, flapping of arms, and spinning in circles.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Given that there are no full-proof medical tests like blood test, and other examinations to detect autism, the onus lies on doctors, parents and caregivers to pay constant attention to the child’s activities, and find out through behavioral traits whether he/she might be autistic.
There are no cures for autism. However, with early intervention and effective treatment, the severity of the autistic condition can be countered to a major extent. Autistic children who manifest symptoms of linguistic and social impairment can be trained to develop their skills to communicate with others, and behave more presentably in a social setting. With extensive therapy and training, it is also possible to train such children to improve their cognitive skills and capacity of retaining facts and figures.
The benefits of such training are not limited to autistic children only. Children who manifest signs of developmental delay up to the age of three years can also benefit from these therapies.
The Causes Of Autism And The Risk Factors That Are Involved
Medical science is yet to find out the definite cause of autism. Here are some of the environmental factors and chemical influences that have been sighted as the possible causes of autism:
- The chromosomal interaction in an individual’s genes can result in the development of autism.
- Autism occurs in children with certain chromosomal or genetic conditions. For instance, about 10% of autistic children also suffer from fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and other genetic disorders.
- Children whose parents or siblings are autistic generally run the risk of developing autism.
- The consumption of prescriptive drugs like thalidomide or valporic acid during pregnancy greatly increases the chances of autism in the unborn child.
- Children who are born prematurely, or are severely underweight at the time of birth are more susceptible towards developing syndromes of autism.
- The effect of vaccines have not been established as yet. Researchers are also analyzing whether the conditions just before birth, and post-birth results in the development of autism. However, the claim of inefficient parenting skills resulting in autism is totally untrue.
Boys are five times more susceptible to autism than girls. With 1 in every 88 children being diagnosed with autism, doctors and parents need to be on constant vigilance, as early detection, and adequate treatment can help to salvage the damages that can be caused by this chronic condition.
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