Autism – A Closer Look!
Autism is a developmental disorder of the brain that first shows signs during infancy or childhood and continues without any remission or relapse. It is very heritable, although the genetics are complex and it is not known exactly which genes cause it. The disorder is characterized by a group of symptoms rather than a single symptom and the needs of those who have it vary greatly. It is identified by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal / nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests.
Symptoms often include problems with using and understanding language; difficulty relating to people, objects, and events; unusual play with toys and other objects; difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings, and repetitive body movements or behavior patterns. They can range from mild to very severe. Parents often become aware of autistic symptoms in their child around the time of a routine vaccination.
Parental concern about vaccines has led to a decreasing rate of childhood immunizations and an increasing likelihood of measles outbreaks; However there is overwhelming scientific evidence showing no causal association between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism, and there is no scientific evidence that the vaccine preservative thiomersal helps or causes the behavior.
The increasing popularity of drug treatment options and the expansion of benefits has given health providers incentives to diagnose ASD, resulting in some over diagnosis of children with uncertain symptoms. A person with ASD may respond atypically to medications and the medications can have adverse side effects. There is no known medication that relieves autism's core symptoms of social and communication impairments.
Researchers have located several brain abnormalities in individuals with autism; however, the reasons for these abnormalities is not known nor is the influence that they might have on behavior. Research has shown that parents are usually correct about noticing developmental problems, although they may not realize the specific nature or degree of the problem.
Environmental factors that have been claimed to contribute to or exacerbate the condition, or may be important in future research, include certain foods, infectious disease, heavy metals, solvents, diesel exhaust, PCBs, phthalates and phenols used in plastic products, pesticides, brominated flame retardants, alcohol, smoking, illicit drugs, and vaccines.
Treatments include behavior and communication therapies, medicines to control symptoms and is most successful when geared toward the child's particular needs. The main goals are to lessen associated deficits and family distress, and to increase quality of life and functional independence. Over the years, families have tried various types of traditional and non-traditional means to reduce autistic behaviors and to increase normal behaviors. The two which have received the most empirical support are Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA; behavior modification) and the use of vitamin B6 with magnesium supplements.
For many children, symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Parents should be ready to adjust treatment for their child as needed. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that target the core symptoms of autism: impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and obsessive or repetitive routines and interests. Parents should use caution before adopting any of these treatments.
Autism is a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication, and causes restricted and repetitive behavior, all starting before a child is three years old. It is three times more likely to affect males than females. The disorder varies widely in its severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when it is masked by more debilitating handicaps. Autism is not treated with surgery or medicine (although some may be given medicine to improve certain symptoms, like aggressive behavior or attention problems). It remains a challenging condition for individuals and their families, but the outlook today is much better than it was a generation ago.