Autism was first identified by two Australian psychiatrists in the 1940’s. Dr. Leo Kanner studied children who would later be identified as autistic, or to have “classic Autism”, and Dr. Hans Asperger studied children who have what is now known as Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a high-functioning form of Autism. Both physicians studied children with Autism; however, they studied children on opposite ends of the Autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)’s range in severity, and effect each individual differently.
What Is Autism?
Autism is a neuro-biological in nature; it is a neuro developmental disorder that appears in children usually before the age of three; however, the signs and symptoms may not be identifiable until later in some individuals when social and communications demands outweigh capabilities.
How do you get autism; is it contagious?
Although there have not been any specific “Autism” genes identified, there is thought to be a strong genetic/heredity aspect to Autism. It is neither uncommon for households to have more than one child on the Autism spectrum, nor for an autistic adult to have one or more autistic children. Autism is not a disease and cannot be contracted or transmitted in any way, it is a neurobiological difference in the brain. Autism is a developmental disorder in which the individual’s brain develops differently than that of a neuro-typical (NT), person without Autism’s brain.
What are the symptoms of autism?
The Autism Spectrum covers a wide-range of developmental differences in which no two autistic individuals displays the same symptoms or abilities. Autism affects each child or adult differently. Although each individual may exhibit different signs and symptoms there are some that are common characteristics of Autism. Those who have Autism Spectrum Disorders usually have difficulty in three areas: social interaction, language, and behaviors. Children may have delayed speech, difficulty making or maintaining eye contact, or successfully interacting with other children. They may resist hugs, or being touched. Language skills may be delayed, but this is not always the case. Speech can be repetitive or stoic. Some children may display what is perceived as behavioral problems like increased tantrums, head-banging, or rhythmic rocking, tapping, or jumping, also known as “stimming behaviors”. They may have narrow “special interests” or obsessions, or play differently than other children by organizing or lining up their toys. Another common symptom of Autism is hyper or hypo sensitivity or reactivity to sensory stimuli; sensitivity to lights, sounds, smells, tastes, or textures, also known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
How is autism diagnosed?
Pediatricians and Psychiatrists diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) according to the diagnostic criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). There are no definitive tests for Autism; however, your child’s doctor will observe your child’s behavior during routine doctor appointments watching for “developmental milestones” to ensure that your child is not displaying a developmental delay. If delays are noticed, speech and language evaluations may be performed, and/or you may be referred to a specialist or Developmental Pediatrician. Symptoms of Autism are usually identified by the age of three; however, due to the varying degrees in which Autism spectrum disorders can affect individuals it is sometimes not identified until much later. Diagnosing adults can often be difficult, requiring observation of current behaviors, and a detailed history to identify behaviors that were present in childhood.
What causes Autism; is there a cure?
The exact causes of Autism are unknown; however, both genetics and the environment appear to be contributing factors. There is no known cure for Autism; there is no cure for the neurological differences in the brain. With early detection and understanding of autistic traits and behaviors one can strive to understand their child or themselves thus learning to cope with difficulties that may arise. Identification and understanding is key.
Autism is known as a spectrum disorder due to the large range of symptoms and abilities related to autistic individuals. Persons on the autism spectrum can range from being diagnosed with “classic autism”, to “Asperger’s Syndrome”—from what is considered low-functioning to high-functioning. Each individual will display different traits and characteristics, and their abilities differ. Just like no two people are alike, no two autistic children or adults are alike.