Autism Autism Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism and its associated behaviors have been estimated to occur in as many as 1 in 500 individuals (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1997). Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls (Autism: Basic Information) and knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Although autism manifests itself at an early age, it doesnt worsen as a child ages (webofcare.com). Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.
The disorder makes it hard for them to communicate with others and relate to the outside world. In some cases, aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may be present. Persons with autism may exhibit repeated body movements (hand flapping, rocking), unusual responses to people or attachments to objects and resistance to changes in routines. Individuals may also experience sensitivities in the five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. However, autism isnt a condition a child will grow out of. Autism doesnt occur because of inadequate parenting.
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The causes of autism are unknown, therefore prevention isnt possible (Autism: Basic Information third edition). Over one half million people in the U.S. today (Autism: Perspective) have autism or some form of pervasive developmental disorder. Its prevalence rate makes autism one of the most common developmental disabilities. Yet most of the public, including many professionals in the medical, educational, and vocational fields, are still unaware of how autism affects people and how they can effectively work with individuals with autism.
What Causes Autism? Researchers from all over the world are devoting considerable time and energy into finding the answer to this critical question. Medical researchers are exploring different explanations for the various forms of autism. Although a single specific cause of autism is not known, current research links autism to biological or neurological differences in the brain. In many families there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities which suggests there is a genetic basis to the disorderalthough at this time no gene has been directly linked to autism. The genetic basis is believed by researchers to be highly complex, probably involving several genes in combination.
Several outdated theories about the cause of autism have been proven to be false. Autism is not a mental illness. Children with autism are not unruly kids who choose not to behave. Bad parenting does not cause autism. Furthermore, no known psychological factors in the development of the child have been shown to cause autism. How is Autism Diagnosed? There are no medical tests for diagnosing autism. An accurate diagnosis must be based on observation of the individual’s communication, behavior, and developmental levels.
However, because many of the behaviors associated with autism are shared by other disorders, various medical tests may be ordered to rule out or identify other possible causes of the symptoms being exhibited. Since the characteristics of the disorder vary so much, ideally a child should be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team which may include a neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language therapist, learning consultant, or another professional knowledgeable about autism. Diagnosis is difficult for a practitioner with limited training or exposure to autism. Sometimes, well-meaning professionals have misdiagnosed autism. Difficulties in the recognition and acknowledgment of autism often lead to a lack of services to meet the complex needs of individuals with autism.
A brief observation in a single setting cannot present a true picture of an individual’s abilities and behaviors. Parental (and other caregivers’) input and developmental history are very important components of making an accurate diagnosis. At first glance, some persons with autism may appear to have mental retardation, a behavior disorder, problems with hearing, or even odd and eccentric behavior. To complicate matters further, these conditions can co-occur with autism. However, it is important to distinguish autism from other conditions, since an accurate diagnosis and early identification can provide the basis for building an appropriate and effective educational and treatment program.
Sometimes professionals who are not knowledgeable about the needs and opportunities for early intervention in autism do not offer an autism diagnosis even if it is appropriate. This hesitation may be due to a misguided wish to spare the family. Unfortunately, this too can lead to failure to obtain appropriate services for the child. What are People with Autism Like? Children within the pervasive developmental disorder spectrum often appear relatively normal in their development until the age of 24-30 months, when parents may notice delays in language, play or social interaction. 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). Autistics also have trouble fitting in because of an apathetic interest in what other children are doing. They tend to be passive or dont 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).
Any of the following delays, by themselves, would not result in a diagnosis of a pervasive developmental disorder. The following areas are among those that may be affected by autism: -Communication (language develops slowly or not at all; uses words without attaching the usual meaning to them; communicates with gestures instead of words; short attention span), -Social Interaction (spends time alone rather than with others; shows little interest in making friends; less responsive to social cues such as eye contact or smiles), –Sensory Impairment (may have sensitivities in the areas of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste to a greater or lesser degree), -Play (lack of spontaneous or imaginative play; does not imitate others’ actions; does not initiate pretend games), -Behaviors (may be overactive or very passive; throws tantrums for no apparent reason). Every person with autism is an individual, and like all individuals, has a unique personality and combination of characteristics. There are great differences among people with autism. Some individuals mildly affected may exhibit only slight delays in language and greater challenges with social interactions. The person may have difficulty initiating and/or maintaining a conversation, or keeping a conversation going. Communication is often described as talking at others (for example, monologue on a favorite subject that continues despite attempts of others to interject comments).
People with autism process and respond to information in unique ways. Educators and other service providers must consider the unique pattern of learning strengths and difficulties in the individual with autism when assessing learning and behavior to ensure effective intervention. Individuals with autism can learn when information about their unique styles of receiving and expressing information is addressed and implemented in their programs. The abilities of an individual with autism may fluctuate from day to day due to difficulties in concentration, processing, or anxiety. The child may show evidence of learning one day, but not the next. Changes in external stimuli and anxiety can affect learning.
They may have average or above average verbal, memory or spatial skills but find it difficult to be imaginative or join in activities with others. Individuals with more severe challenges may require intensive support to manage the basic tasks and needs of living day to day. While no one can predict the future, it is known that some adults with autism live and work independently in the community (drive a car, earn a college degree, get married); some may be fairly independent in the community and …