Autism is a disorder of human development characterized by abnormalities in behavior, communication and social interaction. Autism declares itself in various forms. In addition, the manifestations of autism may be present in other mental disorders. The severity of autism may vary from mild to severe.
People with mild autism symptoms may seem normal. People with severe autism often have completely disrupted function of brain and a person cannot function normally.
In the past, autism was frequently confused with the manifestation of childhood schizophrenia or childhood psychosis. The more information about the disease appeared, the more frequently it was diagnosed. Many of the early confusions associated with causes of autism have been resolved.
Scientists define three signs of autism:
- Disorder of social interaction
- Difficulties in communication with other people
- Features of the behavior
Disorder of social interaction
A person, who has autism, is not able to build healthy relationships with other people and that is very important when you are a part of society. The disorder may be so serious that could affect the relationships of mother and child at the initial period of life.
It is important to know that a child with this syndrome shows his/her affection for the mother and other people, who take care of him/her. However, the way of expression of this affection and love is different from ways of other children. If a child has little contact with other children and his/her parents, doctors aren’t always able to determine autism. And autism treatments depend on that.
During the process of child development, the interaction with society becomes more and more difficult with time. The features of behavior are often related to eye contact, facial expressions and body positions. Usually, it is difficult for an autistic child to establish any relationships with their peers and often the child is isolated from society.
Also, the child does not express any interest in games or any activities in comparison with the peers. Children with this disorder do not want to play any games. In severe cases, such children may not notice the presence of other people.
Autistic people have usually broken communication skills, i.e. the ability to communicate with other people. Sick people simply cannot understand what they are said; sick children may not understand the meaning of some children’s games such as hide and seek, for example.
Autistic people frequently do not take part in dialogues. Typically, the expression of another person is perceived as something incomprehensible. Speech of a sick person is monotone and lack of emotions. Often people with autism repeat phrases and sentences told by others. For example, you may say “look at the plane!”, and a child or an adult repeats: “plane”.
He/she does not realize the meaning of the word. Such repetition of words and phrases is called echolalia. While many people believe that it is a sign of the intellect (songs repetition etc.), autistic people often do not understand the content of what they say.
View on Autism
Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler first applied the term “autism” in one of the British medical journals in 1912. At that time he meant under this notion difficulties that emerge in patients with schizophrenia when communicating with others.
Autism was defined in the form we know it later in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner, who studied the behavior of eleven children with similar symptoms. These children do not seek to learn new things, meet somebody and share their emotions. Often they have problems in communication and social adaptation, nothing interests them.
A child, who has the symptoms similar to the listed above may have autism. These are the signs of autism. This illness has several names including Asperger syndrome and Rett syndrome. But each of these disorders is classified as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and differs only by several symptoms.
Autism that develops in a child’s organism gradually starts to emerge at the age of a year and a half. It is fully formed to three years. Autism symptoms checklist is rather various and it manifests itself differently in diverse people.
This condition affects gestures, movements, speech and reactions. Not all autistic children have any physical manifestations of it. Autism is most often manifested in changes of behavior, such as following:
- Refusal of tactile contact with parents
- Absence of speech to three years
- A child prefers to be alone than with someone else
- A child refuses to contact with the outside world or is not interested in it
- A child either doesn’t have skills of nonverbal communication or these skills are poorly developed. The child does not want to look into your eyes
- Baby’s gestures are strange and rather nervous than expressing something
- The child speaks, but steadily, as if he/she repeats studied text. Many autistic children repeat the words of others in the manner of echo
- Unusual sensory responses (for voice, smell, taste, touch)
- The child shows the same behavior and way of communication with others; prefers to repeat one chosen action
- Autistic children do not play with other kids and always prefer to arrange their toys in the same manner, always depending on the color
- They are not afraid of surrounding, but do not want to change anything in their life. They are so engrossed in their daily occupations, that changes seem to them as something unnatural
- Autism manifests also in sleep disorders.
Autism may have mild and acute form. Many children show autism like symptoms after they start going to school, but that’s normal: the kid becomes accustomed to learning, new people and school atmosphere. It is hard for any parent to understand the child and work with them.
Children with autism require even more care and attention, so raising an autistic child you need to follow some recommendations. You can get such recommendations from a doctor and find peculiar book related to the theme of autism. This will help you to change your life and the life of your child.
Autism as a Genetic Disease
As some neurological disorders can be associated with autism, the issue of whether autism is a genetic disease is very complicated. It’s safe to say that such disorders as the syndrome of friable X-chromosome and multiple sclerosis are hereditary diseases.
The most recent researches have revealed that one of the causes of autism may be considered dysfunction of the site on chromosome 13. In some families, autism is passed from generation to generation. In other families, you cannot identify cases of autism in the past generations; however, it may be present in the child or his/her brothers and sisters.
The results of this study confirm that a gene of autism will be found soon. However, many children, who suffer from autism, do not have close relatives with this illness. The cause of autism may be the environment, such as the impact of harmful substances etc.
Diagnosis of Autism Symptoms
The main manifestations of autism are abnormal development or underdevelopment of a child, the inability of child to contact with the outside world and people, pathological forms of behavior, which are not typical for other children. By three years, if a child is sick with autism, it would be clearly expressed.
In many cases, abnormalities in development might be not observed at first year of child’s life, but autism is expressed to three years, as it is told above. If the speech is not developing or a child is not able to communicate with others by three years, we may suspect autism.
Diagnosing of this disease starts with a careful study of medical report and a medical examination of a patient. The examination of a patient with autism should be made by a specialist, who not only knows autism, but also knows other similar disorders that can imitate the autism symptoms. It is required to make neurological and psychological tests to determine the correct diagnosis.
For example, weakness and reduced reflexes on one side of the body may give the doctor quite exhaustive answer that a person likely has structural brain pathology and MRI is required.
The medical report of patient and thorough examination will help a doctor pinpoint the diagnosis of the disease and identify other possible disorders and diseases that largely cause the presence of autism in a patient. A doctor should test ear of a child, who does not speak.
or normal development of speech process, a person needs to hear sounds of low and high frequencies. Even if a reflex to turn the head to the side from where the sound comes is preserved (e.g. to hands clapping), speech is still may be undeveloped.
If the results of neurological examination are normal, it is usually not required to conduct computerized tomography and MRI. However, if a doctor finds brain pathology during the neurological examination, it is necessary to conduct magnetic-resonance imaging.
Examination of an autistic person by a speech therapy is also very useful, because a doctor may define the speech disorders and prescribe appropriate treatment.
Causes of Autism
Autism appeared in the scientific literature as a mental disorder a few decades ago and for many years scientists study and identify the causes of this disease. Scientists have not found still what causes autism. However, autism is certainly a disorder of biological nature.
In support of the biological theory of autism, some experts have the opinion that various neurological disorders may accompany autism. In this case, autism is a symptom of neurological malfunctions. For example, such disorders may include multiple sclerosis (a genetic disorder), the syndrome of friable X-chromosome, Rett syndrome and some congenial defects associated with the metabolic processes in human body.
Autism may be the result of several neurological malfunctions that influence brain function and human development in general. Genuine autism is rare. Usually it is accompanied by other disorders or is a result of these disorders.
During the years of autism treatments scientists discovered that there is a link between epilepsy and autism. This connection is expressed in two ways: first, many patients (20-30%) suffer from seizures. Secondly, these patients with seizures may get autism as a result.
This sickness is often confused with Landau-Kleffner syndrome. Acquired epileptic aphasia is another name for the syndrome. Some children that have this syndrome may occasionally lose speech, especially receptive communication skills (ability to understand), often autism appears at the same time. These children commonly have a peculiar result of EEG (recording of electrical brain signals), which corresponds to their behavior.
Loss of speech and other malfunctions, which occur because of this disease, occur at the age of 4, and therefore the described above rare syndrome is not difficult to distinguish from autism, which may be present from birth. However, in recent years, scientist noticed that some children, who do not have seizures, have Landau-Kleffner syndrome.
The importance of the above information is that the Landau-Kleffner syndrome (LKS) occurs spontaneously and in some cases it can be treated with corticosteroids. The connection of this syndrome and autism leads to situations when people affected by autism should undergo electroencephalogram.
Pathological EEG can be identified when a person is asleep (it takes 12 hours). Many children and adults perform abnormal EEG, but rarely anyone has the Landau-Kleffner syndrome. We should underline that large doses of corticosteroids may induce side effects such as gain in weight, high blood pressure, diabetes, disorder of human growth, irritability, weakened immune system, ulcers in the mouth etc.
But the main amount of those side effects is reversible. Other treatment methods may be also used. They range from common anti-convulsants and to operation. It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of the treatment of Landau-Kleffner syndrome because the symptoms of syndrome may spontaneously disappear.
As for autism symptoms, many children and adults may have something as a ritual. Even such an action as having a bath may be very difficult for an autistic person: they demand a definite amount of water in the bath, exact water temperature, the same soap and towel, which were used by them earlier.
People often wrongly interpret autism. Allegations that autism can be fully cured you may hear in many families. There are different models of autism treatment, which concern educational system in this area (to enlighten people) and the treatment itself.
Yet the most effective approach to treatment of this disorder is in education or human awareness about the disease. There is a tendency to place children with autism in small classrooms, so that they are free from auditory and visual stimulation. Training information is given to a child in small portions.
People with autism must be taught how to communicate and interact with other people. It is a hard task and it includes the entire family, as well as professionals. Parents of an autistic child should constantly receive information about new treatment methods and maintain openness.
Some treatment ways are suitable for one patient, but do not fit others. The effectiveness of many treatment methods has to be scientifically proven yet. Treatment decisions are always made on an individual basis after careful evaluation of signs of autism.
These methods are based on the fact this treatment is appropriate for both the child and his/her family. It is important to bear in mind, despite some recent denials, that autism is a condition, which requires constant treatment.
The treatment program may change with the development of an individual. Families should beware of treatment programs that give false hope for healing.
Some drugs have been tried for the treatment of autism. But there are no such drugs, which fully proved their effectiveness in autism treatment. In the past, television showed a story about the hormone secretin, which supposedly helps in the treatment of autism.
Children, who constantly complained of chronic gastrointestinal diseases, presented evident improvement after they were injected this hormone during the research. Parents of these children and doctors believed that the hormone promoted the treatment of autism.
Since then, many doctors began to prescribe this hormone as a treatment for autism. We should note that this drug is very expensive. However, published studies refute the fact that the hormone promotes the treatment of autism. This example highlights the importance of good clinical researches with usage of autism symptoms checklist.
Treatment of autism involves a special diet that restricts reception of foods with high volume of gluten and casein and the use of drugs and sedatives. In addition, there are a lot of techniques and developments nowadays aimed at the treatment or correction of autism.
For example, the therapy of communication helps develop a child’s independence and skills for social adaptation. It also promotes the development of communication skills through sign language and other types of nonverbal communication.
Audio-vocal training and audio training, as well as the conflict therapy are aimed at adapting an autistic child. The main method of conflict therapy is a forcible holding. This method, proposed by M. Welch in 1983, is also called forcible support.
It performs forcible, almost violent physical connection of a mother and child, because the absence of exactly this connection is considered to be the main disorder during autism.