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How to Diagnose Autism

Updated on June 4, 2011

At some point everybody has heard someone use the term “autistic.” Unfortunately it’s a term heard much too often. But do you know what it actually is? Many of us think we do but there’s more to it than most think.

Autism is part of a larger collection of disorders called pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). It is a developmental disability arising from various neurological disorders affecting normal brain functioning. It is characterized by the abnormal development of communication skills, social skills, and reasoning. The disorder strikes males four times more often than females. It is difficult to detect in the very early stages of newborns until around the age of 30 months.

Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells connect and organize. How this happens is not clearly known. But, it is one of three recognized disorders in the autism spectrum (ASD’s.) The other two are Asperger syndrome, which affects cognitive development and language, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS,) which is the case when all criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met.

Autism often mimics other disorders which may have similar behaviors. Symptoms can vary widely in intensity and can cause impairment in several areas such as social interactions, fixation on inanimate objects, inability to communicate normally, and resistance to changes in daily routine.

Autistics display a few common traits including lack of eye contact, repeating words or phrases, unmotivated tantrums, inability to express thoughts verbally, and insensitivity to pain. In fact, many autistics try to avoid human contact. However, some behaviors may change over time and early diagnosis helps many autistics to reach their full potential.

Sadly, autistic children often have other mental disorders. It is generally accepted by the medical community about two thirds are mentally retarded and over one quarter develop seizures. A Swiss psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler, first coined the term in 1912. He had previously also named the condition, adult schizophrenia.

Before discovering a pattern of symptoms and a lack of knowledge, many suffers were simply classified as mentally retarded or insane. There is a story of a boy found in the 19th century named Victor. Many believed he had grown up in the forest devoid of any human contact. The story is told in the book The Wild Boy of Aveyron.”

Researchers believe autism may have a hereditary link and scientists are trying searching for the specific genes responsible. Studies are also being conducted to see if autism can be caused by other factors such as environment or medical problems.

It was once thought vaccines may have been responsible, especially measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines. But no evidence has ever been found to support this theory.

In rare cases, autism is strongly associated with birth defect causing agents such as heavy metals, pesticides and childhood vaccines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism affects approximately 9 per 1,000 children in the United States.The number of people diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically since the 1980’s.

Although there is no known cure, early diagnosis can help autistic children gain self-care, social, and communication skills.

Symptoms for autistics usually become noticeable by age 3. Parents will see their child hasn’t started speaking or don’t act the same as other children of their age. Informed parents can learn to quickly identify traits which may indicate their child is autistic.

  1. · A child may seem to be deaf, even though hearing tests are normal.
  2. · Repeated body rocking and unusual attachments to certain objects.
  3. · Becoming extremely upset when common routines change.

However, there is no definite identification for an autistic. Autistic behaviors can range from mild to severe. Although, a common thread seems to be autistics prefer to play alone and avoid making eye contact with other people. Autism can become a problem in many areas:

  1. · Many autistics score below normal intelligence.
  2. · Teens frequently experience depression or anxiety, specifically those with normal or above average intelligence.
  3. · Seizure, such as epilepsy may develop by their teen years.

There are several ways in which autism is treated:

  1. Behavioral training includes positive reinforcement which rewards good behavior while children are learning social and communication skills. The earlier treatment starts, the better.
  2. Treatment may also include speech or physical therapy. In problems such as depression or obsessive-compulsive behaviors medication is sometimes used.

Symptoms for each individual will be different and will change over time. Therefore, their treatment will change accordingly. Something helping one autistic may not help another. Parents must become involved in their child’s education to find the best way to manage their treatment.

1. An important part of any treatment plan is having all family members informed on the subject. Training reduces family stress.

2. Find out what help is available in your area. Family, friends, public agencies, and autism organizations.

Autistics’ display many types of repetitive or restricted behavior, which the following 7 point Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised (RBS-R) shows:

1. Stereotypy is repetitive movement, such as, rolling of the head or body rocking.

2. Compulsive behavior, such as arranging objects in stacks or lines.

3. Sameness refers to resistance to change. For example, insisting furniture not be moved or refusing to be interrupted.

4. Ritualistic behavior. This involves a daily non-changing pattern of daily activities, such as menus or dressing rituals. This is closely associated with sameness.

5. Restricted behavior. Refers to a limited focus, interest, or activity, such as preoccupation with a single toy, or game.

6. Self Injury means making movements that can cause injuries to themselves, such as eye poking, skin picking, hand biting, and head banging.

Children with high-functioning autism suffer more intense and frequent loneliness compared to normal children, despite the common belief autistic children prefer to be alone. Making friendships is often difficult for those with autism.

An estimated 0.5% to 10% of individuals with ASD exhibit unusual abilities, ranging from memorization of trivia to extraordinarily other rare talents. Many individuals with ASD display superior perception and attention skills, compared to the general population.

Unusual eating habits occur in about three-quarters of ASD children being “picky” seems to be the most common problem.

The main goals of treating children with autism are to lessen the severity of their symptoms and help families cope with the added stress of living with an autistic. Intensive, sustained special education and behavior therapy programs early in life have proven helpful in autistics acquiring self-care, social, and job skills.

Many medications are used for treating ASD symptoms that crop up with integrating a child into home or school when behavioral treatment fails.More than half of US children diagnosed with ASD are most commonly prescribed antidepressants, stimulants and antipsychotics.

Currently, there is no cure is known. Sometimes children recover, usually after intensive treatment, but it’s not the norm. Independent living is not likely for those with severe autism.

In the late 1960s autism was determined to be a separate syndrome by demonstrating that it is a lifelong impairment, distinguishing it from mental retardation, schizophrenia and other developmental disorders.


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      You are quite welcome.

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      Thanks for the informative hub. I learned a lot.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      My plan exactly safiq!

    • profile image

      safiq ali patel 6 years ago

      This hub goes some way towards helping readers understand autism. It is a very complexed condition and you note well the issues of aloneness, tantrums and other difficulties and challenges children with autism and adults with the condition have to live with.