Throughout the years the diagnosis of autism has changed dramatically. Once, it was mistakenly diagnosed as childhood schizophrenia. Now that much more extensive research has been done, researchers have found distinct characteristics that are typical of autistic individuals.
It is most often characterized by difficulty in the child’s ability to respond to people, events, and objects. Responses to sensations of light, sound, and feeling may be exaggerated. Delayed speech and language may be associated. Other characteristics include: impairment in ability to make peer friendships, absence of imaginative activity, stereotyped body movements, persistent preoccupation with parts of objects, marked distress over changes in trivial aspects of the environment, unreasonable insistence on following routines in precise detail, a restricted range of interests and a preoccupation with one narrow interest, along with many others. Although certain characteristics are typical of autistic children, the diagnosis is a multidisciplinary effort. The diagnosis requires a team of professionals because of the many unique characteristics and behaviors of the autistic child Each professional is assigned a different behavior to monitor.
However, the psychiatrist and the psychologist are mainly responsible for the diagnosis and the psychological evaluations involved. The onset of this condition is usually observed within the first two and a half years. In 1968, the APA referred to autism as a single disorder, and now it is known to be a syndrome of behavioral and medical effects. Along with autism, several related disorders are grouped under Pervasive Developmental Disorders, PDD, a general category which is characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development. The standard reference is known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, DSM, which is now in its fourth edition. The DSM classifies the different types of PDD which are often mistaken as autism.
The other PDD are Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, PDD-NOS, which is commonly referred to as atypical autism. The term autistic spectrum disorder is frequently used to acknowledge the diversity and severity of autism . The characteristics and symptoms of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations. There is no standard type and no such thing as a typical person with autism.
The most commonly used terms to describe people with autism are: autistic-like, autistic tendencies, autistic spectrum, high functioning, or low functioning, and more-abled or less-abled. Autistic disorder is also know as Infantile Autism or Kanner’s Syndrome. Most children with this condition exhibit poor social skills, and impaired cognitive functioning and language. What is it that causes this national crisis, affecting over 400,000 families, and costing the nation over 13 billion dollars.
Autism is the third most common developmental disorder, more common than Down Syndrome, multiple sclerosis, or cystic fibrosis, and autism research still receives less than 5% of the funding of the other diseases. With the lack of funding, researchers from all over the world are spending a considerable amount of time and energy trying to find answers. A single specific cause of autism is still not known. The most current research links autism to neurological or biological differences in the brain, and in many families a pattern of autism or autism related disabilities appears. This could suggest that autism has a genetic basis, although no specific gene has been directly linked to autism.
Researchers believe that a genetic basis would be highly complex, involving a combination of several genes. Direct causes have not been discovered, but several theories has been proven false. Autism is not a mental disorder, children with autism are not unruly kids who choose not to behave. Autism is not caused by bad parenting, and no known psychological factors in child development have been proven to cause autism. Children with autism begin to show signs of this disease at around the age of two.
This is when parents may notice delays in language, play, or social interaction. One of the many problems autistic children have is with social detachment and unresponsiveness. Autistic babies do not smile at there parents or reach out to be cuddled or picked up. They often do not play with other children, appearing to be in there their own world, unaware of people or events around them. Many children may never develop normal concern for the feelings of others.
Language develops very slowly or in 40% of autistic children not at all. They often use gestures instead of words or use words, but without attaching the usual meaning. Some autistic children have echolalia. This is when the child will repeat back what someone has just said. This repeating of what was just said, is also thought to be a way for the child to express the word yes.
Their voices are normally mechanical or robot like. People with autism do not like it when their physical surroundings or daily routines are changed. They are dependent on their every day routines, and may have tantrums if things are out of place. Older autistic people may engage in the same hobby or have a set topic of conversation such as train schedules or road maps. Unusual movements and mechanical fascination are others signs of autism. Children will repeat the same motions over and over again, such as: twirling about, rocking back and forth, waving their arms, or flicking their fingers.
They may also be hyperactive, moving from place to place with no apparent purpose. Physical objects seem to be more interesting them then people. Some autistic people will become attached to a certain object, carrying it around at all times, or become obsessed by a particular activity such as flushing a toilet or turning a light switch on and off. Autism is also characterized by self-injurious behavior. This refers to any behavior that can cause tissue damage, such as bruises, redness and open wounds.
The most common forms of these behaviors include head-banging, hand-biting, and excessive scratching or rubbing. There are two major sets of theories on why people engage in self-injury: physiological and social. The physiological theorists believe that these behaviors may release beta-endorphins in the person’s brain, which in turn, provides the person with a form.