Autism and asperger’s syndrome


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Autism and asperger’s syndrome

  1. 1. Current Issues in the Brain By: Carmen Toman
  2. 2. <ul><li>Autism is a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication and causes restricted and repetitive behaviors that usually start in children before age three. Autistic babies tend to shrink away from human touch and do not smile or respond to smiles. They prefer to form their own rituals and not interact with others around them. </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>These disorders will cause delays in the child’s development with possible indicators in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Social skills- the child cannot carry out simple instructions or maintain eye contact, has little interest in others and responds to sounds but not to human voices. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The senses- will not look at objects directly, insensitivity to pain or extreme temperatures, eating a restricted range of food types and walking on tip toes. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Play and imagination- Will only play with certain toys in unusual ways, prefers not to play with others, and does not engage in pretend play. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Behavior- difficulty coping with changes to routine, self-injuring behavior, repetitive or ritualistic behavior such as rocking or flapping the hands. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Postmortem and MRI studies have shown that many major brain structures are involved with autism. This includes the cerebellum, cerebral cortex, limbic system corpus callosum, basal ganglia, and brain stem. Research is focusing on the role of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine. Other evidence points to genetic factors and a gene vulnerability that runs in families. Neuroimaging studies have also shown that a contributing factor to autism may be abnormal brain development in the first few months of life of an infant. For example, sudden, rapid head growth in an infant could be an early warning signal for the prevention of autism. </li></ul>
  5. 6. <ul><li>Asperger’s syndrome is the mildest of the Autism Spectrum Disorders characterized by: </li></ul><ul><li>Repetitive routines or rituals </li></ul><ul><li>Peculiarities in speech and language such as speaking in a formal manner, in a monotone or taking figures of speech literally. </li></ul><ul><li>Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and inability to interact with peers. </li></ul><ul><li>Problems with nonverbal communication such as: restricted use of gestures, limited facial expressions and a peculiar, stiff gaze. </li></ul><ul><li>Clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements. </li></ul>
  6. 7. <ul><li>A child’s obsession with a single topic or object like vacuum cleaners, the make and model of cars or even odd things like deep fryers. </li></ul><ul><li>They will gather enormous amounts of factual information to the point of becoming experts in their favorite subject. </li></ul><ul><li>Their speech may be marked by a lack of rhythm, an odd inflection or monotone pitch. </li></ul><ul><li>Unlike the severe withdrawal from the rest of the world that is characteristic of autism, children with Asperger’s Syndrome are isolated by their poor social skills and narrow interest. </li></ul><ul><li>They may also have a history of motor delays such as pedaling a bike or catching a ball. </li></ul>
  7. 8. <ul><li>Getting a diagnosis as an adult is not easy because Asperger’s is not widely heard among doctors. These triad impairments Asperger’s can help your doctor make a diagnosis: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Social Communication: have difficulty understanding gestures, body language, facial expressions, making eye contact and have repetitive speech patterns. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social Understanding: have trouble in group situations like finding small talk and chatting difficult and not understanding double meanings like not knowing when someone is teasing you or taking everything literally. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Imagination: have an obsession with rigid routines, problems with making plans for the future and organizing your life, and have trouble planning to go out because they can never remember what to take with them. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 9. <ul><li>Besides the triad impairments some people can also suffer from other impairments that are not included in the triad such as: </li></ul><ul><li>Obsessive compulsive disorder </li></ul><ul><li>Phobias like social phobias, claustrophobia, and agoraphobia() </li></ul><ul><li>Acute anxiety that leads to panic attacks and rigid routines </li></ul><ul><li>Depression and social isolation </li></ul><ul><li>Clumsiness linked to dyspraxia, which includes difficulty with fine motor coordination such as writing neatly and difficulty with gross motor coordination such as tripping and falling. </li></ul>
  9. 10. <ul><li>Current research points to brain abnormalities as the main cause. Scientists have found certain defects in the brains of children with Asperger’s Syndrome(AS) caused by the abnormal migration of embryonic cells during fetal development that affects brain structure and wiring and then goes on to affect the neural circuits that control thought and behavior. AS tends to run in families, but a specific gene for AS has never been found. Research shows that a common group of genes whose variations and deletions make an individual more vulnerable to AS. This variation or deletion of genes determines the severity and symptoms of AS in each individual. </li></ul>
  10. 11. <ul><li>Treatment targets the triad symptoms of AS: poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. Most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention the better. An effective treatment program for children includes the following: </li></ul><ul><li>Social skills training </li></ul><ul><li>Cognitive behavioral therapy </li></ul><ul><li>Medication for co-existing depression or anxiety </li></ul><ul><li>Occupational or physical therapy </li></ul><ul><li>Specialized speech/language therapy </li></ul><ul><li>Parent training and support </li></ul>
  11. 12. <ul><li>In a recent study, children with high functioning autism showed smaller volumes of grey matter in the fronto-pallidal regions of their brain. On the other hand, children with Asperger’s showed less grey matter in mainly the bilateral caudate and thalamus. </li></ul><ul><li>* McAlonan, G. M., Suckling, J., Wong, N., Cheung, V., Lienenkaemper, N., Cheung, C., & Chua, S. E. (2008). Distinct patterns of grey matter abnormality in high-functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 49(12), 1287-1295. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.01933.x </li></ul>Figure 1 Relative deficit clusters (blue) in grey matter volume in children with autism (a) HFA relative to Asperger’s syndrome (b) HFA relative to controls. (c) Asperger’s syndrome relative to controls. (d) Total autism group relative to controls. The maps are orientated with the right side of the brain shown on the left side of each panel. The z coordinate for each axial slice in the standard space of Talairach and Tournoux is given in millimeters.
  12. 13. <ul><li>References </li></ul><ul><li>*Autism - Part I. (Cover story). (2001). Harvard Mental Health Letter , 17(12), 1. Retrieved from EBSCO host . </li></ul><ul><li>Explains what is Autism and Asperger’s syndrome and their characteristics. Expresses the needs of autistic children and how they feel about the world around them. </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul><ul><li>*McAlonan, G. M., Suckling, J., Wong, N., Cheung, V., Lienenkaemper, N., Cheung, C., & Chua, S. E. (2008). Distinct patterns of grey matter abnormality in high-functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 49(12), 1287-1295. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.01933.x </li></ul><ul><li>Shows the studies conducted on children’s brains and compares the volumes of grey matter in normal children and those who have autism spectrum disorders. </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul><ul><li>* Delfos, M., & Attwood, T. (2005). Strange world-autism,asperger's syndrome and pdd-nos: a guide for parents, partners, professionals carers, and people with asds. Retrieved from </li></ul><ul><li>Everything about Autism, Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders. Tells the history of autism and Asperger’s and teaches coping strategies. </li></ul><ul><li>References </li></ul><ul><li>Morris, B.K. (2008). Help with autism, asperger's syndrome & related disorders. Retrieved from </li></ul><ul><li>Information for parents and professionals about Autism and Asperger’s syndrome. It goes into detail about diagnosis and treatment in children and adults with these conditions. </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>