Autism is a health disorder which has gained much publicity in healthcare. Autism affects the neural development of a person. It is characterized by weakened communication, increases recurring behavior and undermines social interaction.
Autism primarily affects the flow of information processing in the brain (Heidgerken et al., 2005). It achieves this by altering the nervous system and their synapses; however, how the process occurs has never been understood.
Autism: Present Perspective
According to Hassiotis & Barron, (2007) autism is a severe problem affecting the world population at present. Many authors testify that autism affects a person’s ability to grasp what is heard, seen and touched.
These fix a significant challenge to individual behavior and in the ability to craft relationship, relate and communicate with others (Heidgerken et al., 2005).
Similarly, a person with autism has to be trained on the process of communicating normally and forming a relationship with objects, events and people in their lives. Prevalence of autism in individuals varies.
This is because it encompasses symptoms which range from mild symptoms to severe. These symptoms are unique to each person. According to Dade (2010), autism occurs in one out of every one thousandth children.
Similarly, the condition occurs four times in boys than in girls. Dade draws that autism does not distinguish or discriminate, but it affects different age groups, race, and people with varied social backgrounds (2010).
Roberts et al (2011) points out that whilst an individual can show signs of autism, ranging from mild to severe, it is noted that ten percent of individuals have a surprising ability when measured on a nine- multiple intelligences scale such as; music, mathematics, art or memory.
Autism is a healthcare issue which can affect all people across different social backgrounds. However, according to Roberts et al (2011), children are the most affected group. Roberts et al explains the condition is prevalent among children who have attained three years of life (2011).
He adds that the condition can be suppressed in children for a while after being diagnosed; however, the condition becomes obvious and visible when a child joins school (Roberts et al., 2011).
History of Autism
According to Wing (1997), autistic disorder, symptoms and treatment was first noted prior to the discovery of autism. Wing (1997) illustrates the Table Talk, brought forward by Martin Luther and compiled by Mathesius.
This is a story of a twelve year old boy who was severely autistic (Wing, 1997). In his assertions, Luther believed the boy was a soulless flesh and controlled by the devil. However, psychology has challenged this claim (Wing, 1997).
Similarly, the Wild Boy of Aveyron, a feral child caught in 1798, showed many symptoms of autism. The boy was treated by Jean Itard, a medical student. Jean treated the boy with behavioral program intended to assist him develop social attachments and stimulate speech by imitation (Wolff, 2004).
In 1910, Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist, introduced the term Autism. Eugen was illustrating the symptoms associated with schizophrenia (Mabel, 2000).
Autism took its present sense in 1938. This was when Hans Hans Asperger of Vienna University Hospital embraced Bleuer’s terminology, autistic psychopaths, in Germany. This was relating to child psychology (Mabel, 2000).
Leo Kanner, when introducing the documentation for infantile autism, formally used the term Autism at John Hopkins Hospital (Pasco, 2011).
Most of Karner’s descriptions in his documentation on autism characteristics, notably “autistic seclusion and “insistence on likeness” remains a distinctive autistic spectrum of disorders.
Karners incessant re-use of the term autism contributed to decades of confused expressions like child psychiatry, and infantile schizophrenia’s. Roberts et al (2011) note that; a focus on maternal deprivation contributed to fallacy of autism as an infant’s retort to ‘refrigerator mothers’.
In 1960’s, autism was recognized as a detach disorder by attesting that it is a lifelong condition, distinguishing it from mental retardation and schizophrenia (Pasco, 2011).
It was also seen as a detach disorder from other developmental disorders, and showing the benefits of encompassing parents in programs of psychotherapy (Heidgerken et al., 2005).
There was less evidence of genetic role in Autism in 1970s. However, presently; it is believed autism is more heritable of all psychiatric conditions (Hassiotis & Barron, 2007).
Although, there has been an increase in parental organizations and de-stigmatization processes of children with autism, ASD has significantly affected how ASD is handled or managed (Heidgerken et al., 2005).
Most parents continue to feel social stigma in situations where their autistic children’s behavior is noted negatively by others. Besides, many medical specialists and primary caregivers still believe the consistency with obsolete autistics examinations (Heidgerken et al., 2005).
The role of internet has been important. It has granted an opportunity for autistic individuals to develop online communities and work remotely. This, in other words, has enabled them to learn from each other and at the same time supporting themselves.
How it affects
How autism affects an individual varies. However, various researchers on the topic have suggested several ways on how this process is achieved. According to Wolff (2004) children experiencing autistic spectrum shows deficiency signs in pragmatic language.
Pragmatic language is the social use of language. That is, the ability of using language skills, a person is endowed with, to interact with the world around him/her. These shortfalls may be inconspicuous to an outside onlooker but can be intense to a child or a person experiencing them.
In children, Hassiotis & Barron, (2007) indicates they do not show outside characteristics that may be a pointer to the disorder because, when they are born, they look healthy.
However, the differences in biological development become clear in subsequent months, following the birth, as adaptive, motor language and social skills fail to develop, or are nonexistent.
Hassiotis & Barron, (2007) explains that a child with autism disorder shows varying-level of retarded skills in all areas of growth and development. This makes each case to be unique when proposing different areas of development impediments.
On a psychological perspective, cognitive abilities in autistic children slightly vary compared to those of a typical developing children. This is dependent on the severity and the mental IQ of the Autistic child.
According to Hassiotis & Barron, (2007) the initial state of cognitive development encompasses the sensorimotor period that is from birth to 2 years old.
The sensorimotor stage involves an understanding of the nature of information which can be contained from the environment, object permanence, representation and directed behavior.
During the preoperational period, symbolic representation is invoked as a child uses symbols and mental images to depict situations, circumstances and objects.
In concurrence with the new language development, a child uses the new found words to describe situations and objects (Dade, 2010).
They seem to understand grouping objects and concepts based on shared abstracts qualities. At the age group of sensorimotor and preoperational stages, an autistic child tends to illustrate less weakness in these areas of awareness.
Micro Level Intervention
Micro level intervention can be invoked by a social worker to assist a child deal with autistic problem at a personal level. Depending on the severity of the case and the symptoms noted, a social worker can seek interdisciplinary professional help.
This will assist in handling the specific autistic challenge of the child/person. Currently, there is no cure for autism. Most treatments being prescribed to patients only minimize specific symptoms (Pasco, 2011).
However, not all is lost, a social worker can train individuals affected in music, listening, language, speech and senses. According to Hassiotis & Barron (2007) medications and special diets can be prescribed to autism patients.
Additionally, a social worker can involve behavioral, related treatments to assist a child/person respond to decreased symptoms. This may involve a positive reinforcement to boost social skills and language.
Training should be embraced during the early stages of a child’s life; early interventions tend to influence a child brain development.
Mezzo Level Intervention
Fixing an advocacy group for autistic children and their families can help in autism intervention at mezzo level. The advocacy group can work jointly with parents, children and other stakeholders in the field.
The advocacy group can be instrumental in autism awareness and training about the disorder on issues such as causes, effects, diagnosis and treatment, among others (Roberts et al., 2011).
By embracing this intervention, the advocacy group can work closely with communities and oversee autistic children’s by being sensitive to their unique needs and circumstances.
Similarly, the advocacy group can support and strengthen family ties through initiatives such as providing referral services, counseling facilities and support to children diagnosed with the disorder. Advocacy groups can also set up child facilities (Pasco, 2011).
The children facility can provide children with learning environment and social interaction. A social worker can serve as an advocate and facilitator, gathering, organizing groups and providing information, defending and supporting and assisting the autistic parents and their children.
Macro Level Intervention
A social worker may embrace a national policy that can address and take direct action in combating autism as an intervention strategy at a macro level. According to Hassiotis & Barron (2007); an insurance legislation that guarantees accessible health care and services for autistic children and adults and their families will complement the available strategies in managing and handling autism.
The viability of this legislation will supplement the available communication and developmental specialists and treatment for autistic persons.
According to Mabel (2000) legislation can assist in channeling funds to autistic service providers.
Also, it will create policies that enables awareness, early detection and treatment is available and accessible by autistic service providers, collaborate with clinics, schools, pediatricians and preschools, among others, where children and families come in contact Hassiotis & Barron (2007).
On macro-level, a social worker would act as an analyst and evaluator. He/she will examine the flow of funding and services required and fix how effective the program policies work. He/she will also evaluate the efficiency of the policy.
Dade, P. (2010). “Autism Data”, Reference Reviews, 24(5), 42 – 42
Hassiotis, A., & Barron, D. (2007). “Mental health, learning disabilities and adolescence: a developmental perspective”, Advances in Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, 1(3), 32 – 39
Heidgerken A.D., Geffken, G, Modi, A, & Frakey, L. (2005). A survey of autism knowledge in a health care setting. J Autism Dev Disord.; 35(3), 323–30
Mabel, B. (2000). “Autism: an interesting dietary case history”, Nutrition & Food Science, 30(3), 137 – 140
Pasco, G. (2011). “The diagnosis and epidemiology of autism”, Tizard Learning Disability Review, 16 (4), 5 – 19
Radley, J. & Zakia, S. (2011). “Asperger syndrome and arson: a case study”, Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, 5 (6), 32 – 36
Roberts, R., Beadle-Brown, J., & Darran, Y. (2011). “Promoting social inclusion for children and adults on the autism spectrum – reflections on policy and practice”, Tizard Learning Disability Review, 16 (4), 45 – 52
Wing, L. (1997). The history of ideas on autism: legends, myths and reality. Autism. 1(1):13–23.
Wolff, S. (2004). The history of autism. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry, 13(4):201–8.