- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
*Autism and The Human Body*
What is Autism?
We have all heard of the word 'Autism' but do we really know what it means? Well, Autism is a developmental disorder that involves abnormal development and function of the brain. People with Autism show decreased social communication skills and restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviors or interests. Experts believe that Autism presents itself during the first three years of a person's life. Autism (or ASD) is a wide-spectrum disorder. This means that no two people with autism will have exactly the same symptoms. As well as experiencing varying combinations of symptoms, some people will have mild symptoms while others will have severe ones.
The Signs & Symptoms
Social Skills - The basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Symptoms may include:
- Unusual or inappropriate body language, gestures, and facial expressions (ex: avoiding eye contact or using facial expressions that don’t match what he or she is saying)
- Lack of interest in other people or in sharing interests or achievements
- Unlikely to approach others or to pursue social interaction, prefers to be alone
Speech - Problems with speech and language comprehension are a sign of the ASD. Symptoms include:
- Delay in learning how to speak (after the age of two) or doesn’t talk at all
- Speaking in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch
- Repeating words or phrases over and over without communicative intent
- Trouble starting a conversation or keeping it going
Restricted play - Children with ASD are often restricted, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests. Symptoms include:
- Obsessive attachment to unusual objects (rubber bands, keys, light switches)
- Preoccupation with a specific topic of interest, often involving numbers or symbols
- A strong need for sameness, order, and routines. Gets upset by change in their routine or the environment.
- Clumsiness, abnormal posture
- Fascinated by spinning objects, moving pieces, or parts of toys
Other sings and symptoms may include sensory problems, emotional difficulties and uneven cognitive abilities. When the child has ASD they have difficulty regulating their emotions or expressing them appropriately. For instance, your child may start to yell, cry, or laugh hysterically for no reason.
Although it is not yet fully understood how Autism really is caused research has linked this to many different factors.
Genetics - For one thing, the disorder is highly heritable. Families that have one child with autism have a 1 in 20 chance of having a second child with autism.
Pesticides - Exposure to pesticides has also been linked to autism. Some studies have found that pesticides may interfere with genes involved in the central nervous system.
Pharmaceuticals - Babies that have been exposed to certain pharmaceuticals in the womb, including valproic acid and thalidomide (Used for morning sickness, anxiety and insomnia), have been found to have a higher risk of autism.
Some parents of children with autism believe their children are allergic or sensitive to the components found in these foods. The benefit of a gluten-free/casein (protein)-free diet is based on the theory that children with autism may have an allergy or high sensitivity to foods containing gluten or casein. Gluten is a protein found in the seeds of several grains such as barley, rye, and wheat. Casein is a protein found in dairy products and other foods containing dairy or lactose. Even foods proclaiming to be dairy-free or lactose-free contain casein.
Autism and Anxiety
Anxiety has long been recognized as an additional difficulty associated with ASD. Some studies report numbers of children who have anxiety symptoms or features, while others count only those who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Changes in behavior and response to areas of concern can indicate anxiety is present in a child. These behaviours may include:
- refusing to go to school
- withdrawing from friends and family
- avoiding an object or situation
- seeking reassurance
Children who are anxious may display both physical and behavioral signs and a range of worried thoughts. Physical signs of anxiety:
- muscle tension
- difficulty concentrating, restlessness
- sweating, flushing or feeling very hot or cold
- recurring headaches, stomach aches, backaches
- fatigue and sleeping difficulties
Students with autism often experience feelings of anxiety because of the difficulty comprehending their surroundings. Unexpected changes or new social situations can be stressful, provoking anxiety for some students.
What is Autism? Do you know the signs?
Under the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a free and appropriate public education is a right and entitlement from pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. Schools are empowered to adopt changes that help a student learn and succeed, including changes to the curriculum and testing. But the rules of the game change after high school, nothing is the same as what it used to be back when you were younger. The focus shifts from student success to preventing discrimination. Colleges and universities that accept federal money have to provide only "reasonable" accommodations to students with disabilities, provided these accommodations do not fundamentally change the requirements of their programs. Unlike high schools, it's very interesting that colleges require students with autism to ask for what they need. Students must provide proof of their disability and request accommodations through a disability services office.
You may be wondering why you need an autism diagnosis, especially if you have lived without one for many years in adulthood. Many young adults and adults who suspect they may have autism are afraid or unwilling to seek an official diagnosis because of the stigma they may feel is associated with the disorder. However, as autism awareness increases rapidly around the world, many are beginning to see the strengths and unique abilities of individuals on the spectrum. Getting a diagnosis can also increase self-awareness which can help you focus on your strengths and work around areas of challenge.
If you think that your child may have Autism, you can visit your M.D for more information on treatment and diagnosis. If you have any questions or additional concerns, or are looking for more information and resources, please feel free to call or email the Autism Speaks Autism Response Team (ASART) for assistance at 888-288-4762 (en Español 888-772-9050)
Autism - APRIL IS AUTISM AWARENESS!
Autism and The Human Body
© 2016 Mahsa S