What is Autism?
Autism is a type of PervasiveDevelopmental Disorder. It is a lifelong developmental disability with symptomsthat range from mild to severe. It was once considered a rare condition, butmore recent studies have shown this to not be the case, with certain datashowing estimates of one-in-500 persons diagnosed with autism in the U.S, everyyear.
Cause and Symptoms
Symptoms of children with autismcan vary greatly, even though they usually all appear around the 30th month oflife. The cause of autism is not known, but it is not linked to bad parenting,or receiving the MMR vaccine. In the case of children suffering from autism,the child has problems with social interaction and relating with their family,peers and companions. Symptoms include the child not being able to developnormal non-verbal social ability, such as returning a smile, or becomingunnaturally attached to inanimate objects like rubber bands or blankets. Otherearly symptoms can be a lack of interest in sharing their achievements orinterests, a lack of cuddling or overt irritation and volatility. Both thesymptoms and their difficulty in socialization are highly variable, to the pointof some children not interacting with anyone at all and staying in solitudeconstantly. Milder cases do exhibit affection and eye contact. There arecases of children being indifferent to parents, not engaging in socialgames such as hide-and-seek, and using people as tools or as a means to getsomething, such as getting a beverage from the refrigerator. It is not uncommonfor children with autism do develop speech impediments, such as a delay ortotal lack of speech, difficulty in making conversation or sometimes evenecholalia – their speech being limited to repeating things they have previouslyheard. Children with autism often tend to have repetitive patterns of behaviorand activities, like obsessions with certain interests, or selfstimulating rituals and routines such as body rocking, or head banging. A largenumber of autistic children are also mentally retarded, with IQ’s of less than 68,and are more prone to seizure disorders.
Treatment and Diagnosis
Autism is incurable, but can betreated to minimize its effects with treatments such as language, social skillsand behavioral therapy, with medication usually used to douse the more aggressivesymptoms. Some medicaments are highly controversial, and a recent case hasshown that some of them are simple placebos. Upon suspicion of autism, visitinga pediatrician with special training, or interest in caring for autisticchildren, is advised. A child psychologist or neurologist might also need to beconsulted.