What is Autism
Autism is a neural development disorder it is characterized by impaired social reactions, communication difficulties, restrictive, repetitive and stereo-typed patterns of behaviors. Usually these signs begin before the child is 3 years old. Autism affects information processing in the brains, it alters how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize, and how this occurs is not evident. Autism has a very strong genetic basis, although the genetics are complex of autism and it is unclear whether it is explained more by rare mutations, or by rare combinations of common genetic variants.
Autism is characterized on a spectrum. There are different types of Autism Spectrum which include:
· Kanner’s or Classical Autistic Disorder- This is what most people think of when they hear the word “autism”. This refers to social interactions, imaginative play and communication in children under the age of 3.
· Asperger Syndrome- Usually these children do not have problems with language, as a matter of fact they tend to score average or above- average on intelligence tests. They do however have the same social problems and a limited span of interests.
· Childhood Disintegrative Disorder- With this type children tend to develop normally for the first two years and then start to regress and lose some or most of their communication and social skills.
· Rett Syndrome- Known to occur mainly in girls, children with Rett Syndrome begin to develop normally. They however, seem to start regressing at 1-4 years of age, with the loss of communication skills and social skills. They tend to have repetitive hand movements which take place of purposeful use of the hands.
· Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not otherwise specified (known as PDD-NOS) – This is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for Autism or Asperger syndrome are not met. This is known as atypical Autism. This is a kind of catchall category for children who have autistic behaviors but do not necessarily fit into any other category.
So what it all means
Kids with Autism experience the world differently. It is tough for kids to talk with other people and express themselves using words sometimes. They seem to react to what is going on around them in unusual ways. Normal sounds may bother a child with Autism. Touching (even in a gentle way) may be uncomfortable for them. They cannot make the connections that other kids make easily. When someone smiles we know they are happy or being friendly. However a kid with Autism may have trouble connecting that the person is being friendly or happy. They also have trouble linking words to their meanings. They may have nervous tendencies, clapping their hands, twirling their hair, or not saying certain words over and over again, also they many prefer one particular toy over another and play with that one most the time. Kids with Autism do not adapt well to changes in their routines. Look at it this way: Every day your brain interprets the sights, sounds, smells and other sensations that you experience. If your brain could not help you understand these things, you would have trouble functioning on a daily basis.
A child with Autism has trouble making sense of the world. Every day our brain interprets sounds, smells, sight and other sensations. If your brain has trouble understanding these things, you would have trouble with daily things, like functioning, talking, going to school and do every day things.
What Causes Autism?
This is the million dollar question, and one every parent wants to know. Autism effects about 1 in every 150 kids, but we have yet to find a clear cut answer on what causes it, because the human brain is very complex and complicated. Some scientists believe it is genetic, a similar disorder runs in their family. The brain contains over 100 billion nerve cells called Neurons, each one of them play a role in carrying a message to other nerve cells throughout the body and brain. These are called neurotransmitters and each one helps you with your senses and going about daily, every day activities with no struggle. However, kids with Autism usually these either do not develop properly or they get damaged somehow.
Figuring out if a child has Autism can be challenging for doctors, a parent is usually the first one that suspects something may be wrong. Some things a parent may see are, missing milestones, the child should be crawling, walking, talking by now, but they do not and have no interest in it. However, please understand that just because a child misses a milestone or is delayed on one, this does not necessarily mean they have Autism, these are not the only factors in identification of Autism. Lab tests and other medical tests are used to rule out other factors and come closer to a diagnosis. Some tests may include blood and urine tests, hearing exams, an EEG (this measures the brain waves), an MRI ( this shows a picture of the structure of the brain), an IQ(Intelligence) test is usually ordered too.
Often it is not just one doctor; a team of specialists will work together for a proper diagnosis. This may or may not include a pediatrician, pediatric psychiatrist and psychologist, a pediatric neurologist, speech and language therapist, and other specialists. This highly trained team of specialists will monitor your child, such as watching them as they engage in playful activity, they will study how the child behaves, how they learn and communicate. You will be involved; the team will listen carefully to what the parents have noticed. All this information, once compiled together will allow then to make a diagnosis of Autism or another disorder that the child may have.
So what now, How is it treated, What’s next?
Different kids need different help, once there is a definite diagnosis, there can then be a plan of attack or treatment put in place. There is no cure for Autism; however with the help of highly trained specialists and modification your child can overcome many difficulties. As with anything, the earlier they start treatment the better the results will be.
Learning how to communicate well is always an important first step, and this may be one of the toughest steps for a child with Autism because spoken language is hard for them. Most understand words by seeing them, so one approach might be the therapist teaching them how to communicate by pointing or using pictures, some have to go as far as to possibly learn sign language. Learning communication first will make the rest of the treatment plan and learning other things easier, and eventually kids with Autism will learn to talk and express themselves.
Therapists play a very important role in a child with Autism. They teach them social skills, such as waiting for their turn, following directions, and how to greet people. Some kids need more extensive help with living skills, like brushing their teeth or making bed, eating and holding utensils properly. While, other children have some behavioral issues they made need help with sitting still, controlling their anger or tempers, they are also taught how to act in certain situations. Lastly, there is medication as well, this will help with mood swings and behaviors, but please keep in mind, that no medication will make a child’s Autism go away.
Living with Autism…
Keep in mind that kids with autism have brighter futures when they have the support and understanding of everyone involved in their life, from doctors, to therapists, to family and friends. Usually some modifications need to be made as far as schooling goes; some can go to a regular school, while others may need more orderly, calmer surroundings, maybe learning at home, special classes in the public school system, or a private school. Some kids will grow up and be able to live on their own; those with more serious problems may need some kind of help.
Please remember if you see any of these signs in your children our first recommendation is to speak with your child’s doctor. Our highly trained specialists will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have, and help you find the help your child may need.