Autism Spectrum Disorder
A person may never realise of his/her gift unless he/she sees a person who lacks a certain normal ability. Autism is an in-born condition that can occur to any child. Autism refers a group of complex disorders associated with brain development (Heather, 2010). The main characterizations of these disorders are difficulties in social interaction, communication (both verbal and nonverbal) and repetitive behaviours. Autism has many sub-types that are closely associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Jeri, 2009). Autism Spectrum Disorder is associated with intellectual disabilities and motor coordination difficulties. Autism Spectrum Disorder has also been associated with some cases of gastrointestinal and sleep disturbances. This paper is dedicated to exploring all aspects of this disorder.
A few years ago it was not well known about the causes of this condition. This prompted the need for research, and consequently a logical explanation can be given at the causes of this condition. Generally, there is no cause of autism. Genetic studies have revealed that in autistic people, there are rare genes changes, simply mutant genes. The number of these genes in an individual determines the extent of autism in that person. It is the combination of these genes and environmental factors that are responsible for causing most cases of this disorder. It is usually during early brain development that environmental factors are able to impact largely on the condition and this makes autistic people resistant to change.
In addition to environmental factors, non-genetic stresses also appear to contribute to the risk of a child’s autism. Factors such as the parents’ advanced age, birth difficulties particularly those that deprive oxygen to the brain and mother’s illness during pregnancy may contribute to some degree. These factors do not pose the threat of autism. It is the presence of the mutant genes in the presence of these factors that are responsible for higher risks of autism (Heather, 2010). A recent research showed that birth of autistic children can be reduced by administering prenatal vitamins that contain folic acid or the woman should eat at least 600mcg of folic acid in diet during the preconception and post conception period (Jeri, 2009).
Autism varies among different individuals and each case is unique. Majority of those on the autism spectrum have shown remarkable abilities in academic skills, visual skills and music. About 40 percent of autistics have less than 70 score in IQ, and as such they can be termed as intellectually disabled (Simon and Patrick, 1993). Many people on the spectrum are proud of the extraordinary abilities and normal perspective of viewing world issues. Others experience high levels of autism and they are unable to leave on their own. About a quarter of all autistics are unable to speak, but they can learn by subjecting to the necessary medications and therapies (Simon and Patrick, 1993).
Autism is one of the largest disabilities to affect children, and it is estimated that five in every ten thousand births are autistic. Autistics vary in different ways and degrees. The condition is noticeable by age 3 even though from birth a child may indicate signs of autism. An autistic child may show discomfort when being held, resists affection and arches back more than a normal child. Most of The autistic children are easy to parent until they start showing difficulties in social skills and communication that the parents realize the variation (Simon and Patrick, 1993).
In diagnosing the condition, the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder-4th Edition) is used (Simon and Patrick, 1993). This is a text that is psychologically tailored to identify the varying degrees of autism. I mainly focus on pervasive developmental disorders also has autism. In the autism diagnosis, six symptoms from three key areas: social skills, communication and repetitive behaviours must be noticeable before age 3 (Heather, 2010). There must be at least 2 symptoms associated with social skills and at least one in communication and repetitive behaviour.
Characteristics of people with autism may include resistance to touching, pain insensitivity, cold and heat insensitivity, self-induced behaviours, unexplained reactions such as weeping or laughing for no reason and emotional unawareness. Autistic people may do what a normal person fears such as diving in a cold pool of water. Self-induced behaviours are defined as repetitive movements of an object. These behaviours can be divided into five senses. A person with autism finds it hard to understand other people’s feelings. Their ability to empathize with others is feeble than that of normal people. Autistics conversation is not engaging. Of course, a person may talk about an idea or thought, but there is less exchanging than if the conversation was held between two normal people (Simon and Patrick, 1993).
Visual self-stimulatory is the first sense, and individuals tend to stare at lights and flapping hands. Flapping of hands, in most cases results in self-injuries behaviour or injurious behaviour towards other people. It should be noted that behaviours vary and that hand flapping does not necessarily precede violence. Auditory behaviours vary from tapping of the ears to making of senseless noises (Allison). The most common of this is the vocal noises made by autistics during times of extreme excitement of fear. Tactile stimulation is also common in autistics, and it is common to find autistics scratching, rubbing objects with hands and even rubbing skin (Allison). Most of these behaviours are performed for pleasure or to overcome cases of anxiety or excitement. It may be difficult to differentiate between self-stimulatory and self-injurious behaviours since the two may overlap. Self-injurious behaviours include head-banging, scratching to the point of bleeding and hand-biting. Since some of the autistic people may be insensitive to the pain, they may injure themselves in the process of trying to calm themselves from anxiety or excitement. Autism characteristics are universal but differ among individuals. However, the diagnosis guidelines are different across the globe depending on the country.
There are treatments that have shown success in dealing with the disorder. Since the condition varies among individuals, medicines prescribed for one individual may fail to work for a different person. Therapies such as Anti-yeast therapy, food supplements and Dimethyglycine aid in healing of the disorder. These are administered to help modify the behaviour of an autistic. There is also a Japanese program that focuses on the individuals around an autistic person and the roles that they should play to moderate his or her behaviour. Other therapies include Facilitated Communication and Mega-Vitamin Theory (Jeri, 2009).
Dr. Bernard Rimland conducted a research on the effect of vitamins in dealing with the condition, and he concluded that vitamin B6 was effective in dealing with over forty percent of the cases. This is after parents to autistic children noted that some foods made a difference in their children. The vitamin generally improves behaviours in speech, decreases self-stimulatory behaviours, sleeping patterns and attention span. This treatment takes two to three months for any observable changes. It has been noted that after application of the vitamin, children who previously could not pay attention during an address by either teachers or parents they are able to listen keenly and even follow instructions (Jeri, 2009).
Facilitated communication involves giving help to an autistic individual to express him/herself via some object such as typewriter or board once given physical support to an arm or a finger. Even though there is a facilitator, it is the autistic individual who types since he or she is intelligent. Autistic individuals may express anger through this means since they may be aware of all that is happening to them, but they cannot express their feelings and thoughts. This method is tailored to enables autistic individuals to emotionally and cognitively bring out them.
Since this condition has no sound cause, varying characteristics and varying medications, it is still a mystery to many people.
Myths about Autism
Autism can be cured. All the above named therapies help autistics develop social, and communication skills, but they cannot treat the core symptoms of the disorder. All they do is reducing problematic behaviours such injurious behaviours.
Autism is caused by vaccines. There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism. This perception came about after a scientific paper wrongly linked vaccines and autism, but there is no evidence of this claim. Childhood immunizations are meant to help reduce the risks of conducting childhood diseases such as Polio.
Unfriendly parents may cause autism. It is true that non-genetic factors and environmental factors may contribute to the degree of autism, but these on their own cannot cause the condition. The condition is as genetic mutation.
Occurrence of an Autism Epidemic
The current high numbers of autistics may be attributed to the increased public awareness or even redefinition of the term autism. As such, one cannot claim that there is an epidemic related to this disorder.
Autism leads to improved math ability and memorization. Stories about autistic individuals being highly gifted in memory are untrue and baseless. Autistics do not show extraordinary math ability however children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may exhibit intense interests in a particular subject and as a result has a lot of information regarding that subject.
Autistics have no emotions. This is quite untrue as the condition is characterized by the inability to express thoughts and feelings, and so it should not be assumed that they don’t have emotions (Myths about Autism, 2013).
Autism is a developmental and lifelong disability. The characteristics of the disorder vary among different individuals. There is no single identified cause for autism, and this makes this disorder a mystery. The theoretical causes that include genetic mutation prove that this disorder may truly be a disability. With available treatments, it has been shown those that suffer from this condition may be modified but not cured. High doses of vitamin B6 and other therapies such as Facilitated Communication may allow autistic individuals a chance to express themselves without frustration due to the inability to communicate. Autistic individuals as well as parents to autistic children need to be supported and accorded help as they really need it. This is due to the fact that for every individual born normal, it is by chance, and there is no guarantee for normal birth.
Baron-Cohen, Simon, and Patrick Bolton (1993) Autism: The Facts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Freedman, Jeri. Autism Spectrum Disorder (2009) New York, NY: Rosen Pub.
Heather B. Autism. (2010) New York, NY: Chelsea House.
Child Mind Institute (2013) “Myths about Autism Spectrum Disorder” Oxford.