What is autism?

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What is autism?

  1. 1. What is autism ? Autism is a complex neurological disorder that affects individuals in the areas of social interactions and communication . Autism and its associated behaviors have been estimated to occur in at least one in 166 individuals (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2004) Autism is the most common developmental disability, more common than Down Syndrome . Autism has been referred to as a spectrum disorder - meaning that symptoms can occur in any combination and with varying degrees of severity. The characteristic behaviors of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) may or may not be apparent in infancy, but usually become apparent in early childhood (24 months to 6 years ). ASD affects individuals in every country of the world and knows no racial, ethnic, nor economic barriers . Source :Autism Society of America Why is autism referred to as a sp e ctrum disord er ? Each person with autism has a unique set of strengths and needs . Autism affects individuals in various ways which can be thought to occur across a spectrum , with varying degrees of impact on the individual’ s ability to function. The primary ASD diagno s e s are : Clas sic Autism ( Autistic Disorder ) Autistic Disorder affects a person ’ s ability to communicate , form relationships with others , and respond appropriately to the environment . Some people with autistic disorder
  2. 2. are high functioning and have the ability to speak and interact with others . Others are more significantly affected and may be non- verbal and may or may not have cognitive impairments . Asperg er ’ s Syndrom e Individuals with Asperger ’ s Syndrome typically do not have a delay in spoken language development . However they can have serious deficits in social communication skills. People with Asperger ’ s syndrome often have repetitive and ritualistic routines , as well as preoccupations with a particular subject matter. Perva siv e Dev elopm e ntal Disorder - Not Otherwis e Sp e cified ( PDD / NOS ) Also know as “Atypical autism”, PDD/NOS is a diagnosis often considered for children who show some symptoms of autism , but who do not meet the specific diagnostic criteria for Autistic Disorder , Asperger ’ s or one of the other specific ASD diagnosis . How doe s autism affect a pers on ? Because people with autism have difficulty understanding what they see , hear and otherwise sense , they often have severe to moderate difficulty in forming social relationships , communication skills and basic self- help skills. Individuals with autism have to painstakingly learn normal patterns of speech and communication, and appropriate ways to relate to people , objects and events . This results in severe problems of social relationships , communication, and behavior.
  3. 3. What causes autism? Currently, the causes of autism are unknown and there are no specific medical treatments or cure . Physicians have no blood test or diagnostic scan that can definitively diagnose the disorder . As such , the diagnosis of autism is based primarily upon observations of behavior. Researchers are unsure about what causes autism . Currently, a great deal of research is being conducted world wide to help solve this mystery. Although a single specific cause of autism is not known, current research links autism to biological or neurological differences in the brain. It is also believed that there may be a genetic component to autism , although at this time no specific gene has been directly linked to autism . How common is autism ? Studies estimate that as many as 12 in every 10,000 children have autism or a related condition (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services , 1999). Autism is four times more common in boys than in girls, and occurs equally across all social, ethnic and cultural backgrounds world wide. (National Institutes of Health, 2001).One out of every 250 babies born each day will develop some form of autism . It is estimated that currently there are 15 million Americans who have autism . What are the sign s of autism ? Autism has a wide variety of characteristics ranging in intensity from mild to severe . One child with autism does not behave like another child with the same diagnosis . Children and adolescents with autism typically: _ Have difficulty communicating with others . _ Exhibit repetitious behaviors , such as rocking back and forth, head banging, or touching or twirling objects . _ Have a limited range of interests and activities . _ May become upset by a small change in their environment or daily routine . In addition to these characteristics , some children with autism experience
  4. 4. hypersensitivity to hearing, touch , smell, or taste . Symptoms of autism can be seen in early infancy, but the condition also may appear after months of normal development . In most cases , however , it is not possible to identify a specific event that triggers the disorder . Other common indicators may include : Little or no eye contact Fixation on order and routine Unresponsiveness to verbal cues (hearing appears impaired but tests normal). Does not want physical touch Frequent tantrums related to change in routine or environment Inappropriate attachment to inanimate objects Unusually physically overactive or extremely underactive Echolalia (repetition of words or phrases in place of typical expression ) Lack of coordination of gross and / or fine motor skills Unwillingness to experience variety of foods May isolate self from others and retreat from social interaction with others It is important to note that each child is different, and many children with autism actually are gifted in many areas in comparison to their age mates . Also, not every child has difficulty with all of the items on the above list. Some times parents and professionals may not pick up on a possible indication of ASD because the child gives good eye contact . If you are concerned about any aspect of a child’ s development it is important to bring your concerns to a medical or educational professional who is familiar with autism and can help determine what your child’ s needs are . The Regional Autism
  5. 5. Center can help you find an appropriate diagnostic team in your area , as well as provide you with print and video resources that can help you understand autism and the various intervention strategies that have been helpful to many children and adults with autism . How is autism diagno s e d ? Autism typically appears by age 3. However , because autism is generally not easy to diagnose , medical and developmental specialists will often refrain from making a set diagnosis until after age 3.There are no medical tests for autism . However, because some of the symptoms are similar to other disabilities, medical tests may be ordered to rule out other possible causes . Diagnosis is based on observation of communication, behavior, and indicators of developmental milestones . The importanc e of beginning to addre s s the child ’ s developm e nt al issu e s in a syst em atic and inten s e fashion as early as pos sibl e can not be over stated . Parents should not wait until there is a definite diagno si s of autism to begin a program of early intervention for their child . Res e arch has indicated that children who receiv e compreh en s iv e early intervention servic e s are often able to make tremend ou s progre s s in the dev elopm e nt of languag e , socialization , self help , the ability to regulate their behavior , and acad e mic learning .
  6. 6. What can you exp e ct ? Autism is a life long disability for which there is no cure . However, early intervention results in positive outcomes and the earlier the treatment begins , the better . If you suspect that someone you know may have some form of autism , it is never too early or too late to seek help. And clearly you are not alone ...the Regional Autism Center at LOGAN is here to help you and your family. We want you to better understand autism and how it impacts your child. We will connect you with other families who understand . We want you to be informed so that you can take an active role in your child’ s development . Our role is to help you understand the various treatment options so that you can choose what is best suited for your child and your family. The Regional Autism Center at LOGAN was created at the urging of parents seeking information and supports . We are here for you and your family to face the challenges of autism together and to celebrate the successes of your child .... consider the Regional Autism Center as your active partner . The Region al Autism Center Searches for Answers Creates Understanding Offers Support Shares Resources Discovers Potential

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