1 out of 150 children are affected by the disorder. It is a condition that the child will carry through out his life. Lives of families are forever changed with much uncertainty of the future. What will become of the child? Would you believe? You can prevent Autism from happening. You can stop Autism from becoming worse. You can use Autism to the child's advantage. You just have to be informed.
Autism has been mystifying scientists for more than half a century. The complex behavioral disorder encompasses a wide variety of symptoms, most of which usually appear before a child turns three.
Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder which is characterized by impairments in communication and social interaction, and restricted, repetitive and stereotypic patterns of behavior, interests, and activities (American Psychiatric Association (APA), 1994). It is a complex neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain.
Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder, which means that the symptoms can be present in a variety of combinations, and can range from mild to severe. Multiple abilities can be affected, while others are not (Bristol et al., 1996; Minshew, Sheeney, and Bauman, 1997).
We know that autism is an organic problem. The affected organ is the problem. The cause of autism is still not known. In most cases, the person is affected from birth or shortly after birth but with no identifiable cause, however, we know that neither parenting nor the home environment causes it.
Prevalence has been commonly cited as 4.5 in every 10,000 births. However, recent estimates of the prevalence of autism indicate a frequency of 10 in 10,000 (Bristol et al, 1996; Bryson, Clark & 4Smith, 1988), and a higher incidence when the broader spectrum of Pervasive Developmental Disorders is included.
There is a higher incidence among males. The ratio varies depending on the definition, but studies reveal a ratio of 3:1 to 4:1 males to females (Bryson, 1997).
. Some individuals may have a severe intellectual disability, while others have normal levels of intelligence.
. There may be a range of difficulties in expressive and receptive language and communication. It is estimated that up to 50% of individuals with autism do not develop functional speech. For those who do, speech may have unusual qualities and be limited in terms of communicative functions.
. There are problems with attention and resistance to change.
. All individuals with autism have difficulties with social interaction, but the extent and type of difficulty may vary. Some may be very withdrawn, while others may be overly active and approach others in peculiar ways.
. They may respond differently to sensory stimuli and may exhibit odd behaviors such as hand flapping, spinning, or rocking. They may also demonstrate unusual use of objects and attachments to objects.
Children with autism are unable to interpret the emotional states of others, failing to recognize anger, sorrow or manipulative intent. Their language skills are often limited, and they find it difficult to initiate or sustain conversations. They also frequently exhibit an intense preoccupation with a single subject, activity or gesture.
Although individuals with autism share some common features, no two individuals are the same. In addition, the pattern and extent of difficulties may change with development. The common characteristics help us to understand general needs associated with autism, but there is a need to combine this information with knowledge of the specific interests, abilities, and personality of each child.
There are 4 developmental areas that are disturbed:
Language and the ability to communicate verbally and non-verbally;
Social relationships with people, events and objects;
Responses to sensory stimuli, which may include any or a combination of the senses of sight, hearing, touch, balance, smell, taste, pain reaction and body orientation to space;
Rate and sequence of the attainment of developmental milestones.
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