Autism starts before a child turns to three years. It is a disorder in the brain development which weakens the social interaction and communication. Autism causes restricted and repetitive behavior. Autism is a hereditary disorder even though the genetics of autism are complex and it is unclear which genes are responsible. Autism is associated with agents which cause birth defects in rare cases. Other possible causes of autism are childhood vaccines which are controversial and the vaccine hypotheses lack convincing scientific evidence. According to the experts out of 1000 children 3-6 children will have autism. Male are four times more to have autism than females.
The occurrence of autism is not known and it affects many parts of the brain. In the first two years of the child’s life, parents usually notice the signs of autism. Autism is characterized by three distinctive behaviors. The autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, problems with verbal and non verbal communication, and repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests. There is a reduced sensitivity of pain, but are more sensitive to sound, touch or other sensory stimulation. These reactions may contribute to the behavioral symptoms such as a resistance to being cuddled or hugged. There is no cure for autism but treatment can help. The early behavioral and cognitive interference can help them to develop self-care, social and communication. An infant with autism may be non responsive to people or focus intently on one item by excluding others for a long period of time. With this disorder few children live independently after reaching adulthood and some of them become successful. Some people believe that autism is a condition than a disorder.
Autism children have speech problems, they might not look in to the eyes when talk to them. Before they can pay attention they may have to line up their pencils, these children will say the same sentence again and again. To tell that they are happy they flap their arms or they might hurt themselves if they are not. Some people never learn to talk. They lack empathy. The autistic children cannot interpret the thoughts and feelings of others and also cannot understand the tone of voice and facial expressions. The autistic people have different symptoms and because this it is known as spectrum disorder. The milder version of this disorder is Asperger syndrome. The disorder lasts throughout a person’s life time. Autism shares numerous signs with Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder. Asperger’s syndrome does not have any delay in the language development. Autistic children are at a higher risk for some co-existing conditions such as fragile X syndrome which causes mental retardation, tuberous sclerosis in which the tumors grow on the brain, epileptic seizures, Tourette syndrome, disabilities in learning and attention deficit disorder. By the time autistic children reach adulthood about 20 to 30% of children develop epilepsy for the reasons unknown. Also schizophrenic people may show some autistic-like behavior but the symptoms do not appear until the late teens or early adulthood. The Schizophrenic people also have hallucinations and delusions which are not found in autism.
Based on the IQ autism is sometimes divided in to the low, medium and high functioning autism. The child affected by autism will show less attention to social stimuli, smile and look at others less often and very rarely respond to their own name. The severity and symptoms of autism may go unrecognized mainly in mildly affected children or when it is covered by more weakening handicaps. Doctors depend on a group of behaviors for diagnosing autism. These behaviors are:
(1) Unable to make friends with peers
(2) Unable to initiate or to continue a conversation with others.
(3) Absence of imaginative and social play.
(4) Unusual, typecast, repetitive use of language.
(5) Preoccupation with certain subjects or objects.
(6) Rigid devotion to certain routines or rituals.
With help of a questionnaire or any other screening instrument doctors assemble information about the child’s development and behavior. Some screening depends on the parent observations and some others on a combination of parent and doctor observations. If there is an indication or possibility of autism, the doctors will ask for more comprehensive evaluation. As autism is a complex disorder a combined evaluation is needed with a multidisciplinary team including psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist and other expert in diagnosing the children with ASDs. Girls with autism may be suffering from Rett syndrome, a sex-linked genetic disorder described by social withdrawal, deteriorated language skills and hand wringing.
Autism cannot be cured. But according to the experts the earlier intervention can make them to cope up with the day-to-day life. Structured and skill oriented training sessions to help children develop social and language skills. Counseling for parents and siblings of autistic children can help the families to cope with the challenges of living with an autistic child. To handle symptoms of anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder doctors often prescribe anti depressant medications. To treat severe behavioral problems anti-psychotic medicines are used. With one or more of the anticonvulsant drugs seizures can be treated. To reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity stimulant drugs are some times used effectively. There are several therapies which are controversial and parents should be aware of that before taking in to consideration any of these treatments.