As human beings grow up, they are bound to develop various behaviors that they carry on with, even in their adulthood. The behaviors could be of any type ranging from deviance to anti-social dispositions. Parents become worried when they realize that their children have any of these abnormalities.
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To some parents, they may realize the behavior early enough for treatment while to others; they take too long to decipher the strange behaviors with their children. Although intervention is still viable in the latter case, full development is highly unlikely.
While there are many causes that can be associated to these anomalies of child development, or even peculiar adult conducts, one of the key contributors to these is autism spectrum disorder. This research paper provides an insight into the principal aspects of autism spectrum disorder including its causes, symptoms, treatment, and myths surrounding it.
Living with autism spectrum disorder is challenging to the patient and their surroundings that can differ widely from person to person. In many cases, normal development is more or less hindered in all spheres of life. Autism is, therefore, a permanent disability that affects societal and communication skills.
Autistics fail to comprehend the operation of their surroundings (Boutot & Tincani, 2009). They also find it difficult to interact. In particular, such people have difficulties in learning, grasping accepted rules of social intermingling that normal people take for granted. What exactly is this autism spectrum disorder?
The term ‘autism’ was first coined by Eugene Bleuler in 1912. It originates from the Greek word ‘autos’ meaning self. Bleuler used it to describe the schizophrenic’s apparent difficulty in interacting with other people. Although the term was used to describe people showing the autistic tendency to detach from personal contact, the disorder was not fully defined until the mid 19th century.
Leo Kanner is considered the first physician to focus on autism in his seminal paper entitled ‘Autistic disturbances of affective contact’. Kanner suggested that the term ‘autism’ describe the fact that children seemed to lack interest in other people (Exkom, 2006).
His paper on the autism contained almost every trait still considered as typical of ASD. Since the publication of the Kanner’s paper on autism, other scholars have joined the trade and made various contributions to the issue. These included Hans Asperger, a German scientist of whom the Asperger’s syndrome is named after (Gallo, 2010).
Scientists have, for long, debated on autism, owing to a difficult in the consensus in the name for the handicap. Nevertheless, autism is unanimously considered as a sever form of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Autism is a neurological syndrome with predominantly behavioral manifestations. Many children with autism show neurological symptoms and signs including seizures, dyspraxia, hypotonia, mental retardation, gait anomalies, and macrocephaly. As such, in this paper, autism will be used interchangeably with ASD (Matson, 2008).
Given that autism is puzzling even to experts, this phenomenon has given rise to a couple of myths and misconceptions concerning the disorder. For instance, it is widely believed that children with autism can perform amazing metal feats like multiplying multiple numbers in their heads.
However, the reality is that the number of children with autism and having high intelligence is insignificant. Another myth surrounding ASD is that dissocial or secluded mothering causes autism. (Sicira-Kira, 2004).
The reality is that autism is a biological handicap. However, some fathers and mothers of autistic children who seem very introverted, socially discomfited, or isolated may themselves be autistic.
Another widely held misconception about ASD is that it can be caused. This is, however, not the case. In the real sense, autism commonly appears within the first two years of life. This is the time when children are being vaccinated.
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Nevertheless, the emergence of autistic symptoms preceding an immunization is only by coincidence. It is also believed that there are behavioral programs that can cure autism. This is not true because autism is not curable. Behavioral programs are meant to aid the autistic person handle the disorder, but not to cure it (Gupta, 2004).
Having looked at some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding ASD, this paper now shifts focus to the symptoms associated with the disorder. There are three major symptoms that people with Autism spectrum disorder exhibit.
They show flaws in social interaction, oral and nonverbal communication, and recurring conducts or interests. Autistics find it difficult to express emotions, empathy, and conversing with others. They may insist on following certain routines in a repetitive manner, or rigid organization of objects.
As evident from these symptoms, ASD is made of a triad of impairments with each having the two extremes of severe degree and mild degree.
It is very easy to identify children with ASD because they do not follow the normal patterns of development. In most cases, between the ages of one year and three years, the distinction in the way the children react to people and other unusual behaviors becomes apparent.
These behaviors include failure to coo, babble, point, or make meaningful gestures at the age of one year, failure to speak one word by 16 months, or inability to combine two words by two years. Other abnormal behaviors include inability to respond to name, loss of language or social skills, poor eye contact, and an occasional hearing impairment (Le Blanc & Volkers, 2007).
Despite its profound symptoms, there is no specifically cause of autism recognized yet. The only conventional ideas concerning the basis of autism are that it is considered to be present at birth, in spite of its appearance later in life. It is caused by anomalies in the brain and may be genetic.
However, the cause of the brain anomalies and the gene affected by the disorder are still up for debate. Another certainty concerning the causes of ASDs is that they are not a psychological disorder by poor parenting, unconsciously rejecting a child, or failing to bond emotionally.
As such, while studying the causes, the scope of the scope of this paper will be limited to the possible causes of ASD (Matson, 2008).
There are four possible causes of ASD. These are biological basis, genetic, pregnancy or birth injury, and vaccinations. Under biological basis, researches have not been able to venture into the study of the human brain anatomy due to its inaccessibility.
However, with the innovative emergence of new brain imaging tools such as computerized tomography (CT), and position emission tomography (PET), study of the structure and the functioning of the brain are now possible.
Post mortem and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have indicated that many major brain structures are implicated in autism. It is apparent that, in autism, a disorder is found in the structure of the brain.
There is a disorder localized in the frontal lobes. Reduced blood flow to some parts of the brain and decreased numbers of certain brain cells also seem to appear along autism traits (Matson & Minshawi, 2006).
Under hereditary, it is widely known that genetics are instrumental in the nature of holistic traits of human beings. This is the same for autism. Studies in the past have suggested an underlying genetic vulnerability to ASD. It is apparent that congenital factors play an important part.
Recent neuroimaging studies have shown that a cause for autism may be anomalous brain growth start from the infant’s first months. The idea that autism is caused by difficulties occurring during pregnancy, or birth process is also under investigation.
It is only in very exceptional cases that illness during pregnancy can cause autism (Sicira-Kira, 2004). A number of opinions exist concerning this cause with the most recent suggesting that laborious pregnancies are a consequence of autism in the child rather than a cause of it.
Another cause of ASD under investigation is toxins ingested by the mother during pregnancy. There is little evidence for the supposition that vaccinations cause autism.
In conclusion, there is no known cure for ASD. However, there are interventions that children or adults with this disorder.
The treatment is divided into a number of categories. These are nutritional-biologically based treatment, relational-socially based, sensory or neural based treatment, pharmacological-medically based treatment, and educational or behavioral skill based treatment (Williams & Williams, 2011). Since that ASD has no precise treatment, parents should pay attention to their growth and development patterns of their children.
Boutot, A. E., & Tincani, M. (2009). Autism Encyclopedia: the complete guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders. London: Sourcebooks, Inc.
Exkom, K. S. (2006). The Autism Sourcebook: Everything you need to know about diagnosis, treatment, coping, and healing–from a mother whose child recovered. New York: HarperCollins.
Gallo, D. P. (2010). Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders: a lifespan perspective. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Gupta, V. D. (2004). Autistic spectrum disorders in children. New York: CRC Press.
Le Blanc, R., & Volkers, H. (2007). What you should know about Autism Spectrum Disorders. New York: Cranendonck Coaching.
Matson, J. L. (2008). Clinical assessment and intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Amsterdam: Academic Press.
Matson, J. L., & Minshawi, N. F. (2006). Early intervention for autism spectrum disorders: a critical analysis. London: Elsevier.
Sicira-Kira, C. (2004). Autism spectrum disorders: the complete guide to understanding autism, Asperger’s syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder, and other ASDs. London: Penguin.
Williams, B. F., & Williams, R. L. (2011). Effective programs for treating autism spectrum disorder: applied behavior analysis models. London: Taylor & Francis.