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The word 'Autism’ comes from the Greek word ‘autos’ meaning- children are ‘locked within themselves.
WHAT IS AUTISM?
First described by Leo Kanner an Austrian American psychiatrist and physician in 1943 as early infantile autism.
Complex developmental disability. Typically appears during first three years of life. Affect normal functioning of the brain.Impacts development in:
- social interaction
- communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal
- leisure or play activities
TYPES OF AUTISM
Autism is one of the 5 (five) Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs).
- Impairments in social interaction, communication, and imaginative play.
- Apparent before age 3.
- Also includes stereotyped behaviours, interests, and activities
- Impairments in social interactions, and presence of restricted interests and activities
- No clinically significant general delay in language
- Average to above average intelligence
iii. Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
- Often referred to as atypical autism
- Used when a child does not meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis, but there is severe and pervasive impairment in specified behaviors
iv. Rett’s Disorder
- Progressive disorder which, to date, has only occurred in girls.
- Period of normal development and then the loss of previously acquired skills.
- Also loss of purposeful use of hands, which is replaced by repetitive hand movements.
- Beginning at age of 1-4 years
v. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
- Normal development for at least the first 2 years
- Then significant loss of previously acquired skills
SYMPTOMS OF AUTISM
Common symptom to all types of autism is an inability to easily communicate and interact with others. In fact, some people with autism are unable to communicate at all. Others may have difficulty interpreting body language or holding a conversation.
Other symptoms linked to autism may include unusual behaviors in any of these areas:
- Interest in objects or specialized information
- Reactions to sensations
- Physical coordination
WHAT CAUSES AUTISM?
There is no known single cause for autism, but it is generally accepted that autism is caused by-
- abnormalities in brain development
- neurochemistry and
- genetic factors
Research indicates other factors besides these like environmental factors that contribute to the rise in increasing occurrence of autism- for example: environmental toxins (e.g., heavy metals such as mercury)
HOW IS AUTISM DIAGNOSED?
No definitive medical test
Commonly used interviews, observation, and specific checklists developed for this purpose.
Diagnosing might include neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language therapist, learning consultant, etc.
Must rule out MR, hearing impairment, behavior disorders, or eccentric habits
HOW IS AUTISM TREATED?
Treatments for autism vary depending on the needs of the individual. In general, treatments fall into four categories:
i.Behavioral and communication therapy
ii.Medical and dietary therapy
iii.Occupational and physical therapy
iv.Complementary therapy (music or art therapy, for example)
Researchers, health professionals, parents, and persons with autism all have strong opinions about the direction future autism research should take. Everyone would like to find a cure for autism. However, many feel that finding a cure is unlikely. Instead, scarce resources should be devoted toward helping people with autism find better ways to live with the condition.
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