Owen and Ben's Journey Through Autism

Owen and Ben's Journey Through Autism

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Article - Learn the Basics of Autism - For a newbie , this article is amazing!!!


Understanding Autism - the Basics
What Is Autism?

Autism isn't a disease, it's a symptom. It ranges in severity from a handicap that limits an otherwise normal life to a devastating disability that may require institutional care.

Autism is one of the most common developmental disabilities. Including the milder form of autism known as pervasive developmental disorder or PDD, autism affects six to eight out of every 1,000 children.

Children with autism have trouble communicating. They have trouble understanding what other people think and feel. This makes it very hard for them to express themselves either with words or through gestures, facial expressions, and touch.

A child with autism who is very sensitive may be greatly troubled -- sometimes even pained -- by sounds, touches, smells, or sights that seem normal to others.

Children who are autistic may have repeated body movements such as rocking or hand flapping. They may have unusual responses to people, attachments to objects, resistance to change in their routines, and/or aggressive or self-injurious behavior. At times they may seem not to notice people, objects, or activities in their surroundings. Some children with autism also develop seizures, in some cases not until adolescence.

Many people with autism are mentally challenged, although most people with PDD have normal or even above-average intelligence. In contrast to mental retardation alone, which is characterized by relatively even skill development, people with autism show uneven skill development. They may have problems in certain areas, especially the ability to communicate and relate to others. But they may have unusually developed skills in other areas, such as drawing, creating music, solving math problems, or memorizing facts. For this reason, they may test higher -- perhaps even in the average or above-average range -- on nonverbal intelligence tests.

Autism typically appears during the first three years of life. Some children show signs from birth. Others seem to develop normally at first, only to slip suddenly into symptoms when they are 18 to 36 months old. Autism is four times more common in boys than in girls. It knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, or educational levels do not affect a child's chance of being autistic.

Some of the different types of autism spectrum disorders include:

* Autistic disorder. This is what most people think of when they hear the word "autism." It refers to problems with social interactions, communication, and imaginative play in children younger than 3 years.
* Asperger's syndrome. These children don't have a problem with language -- in fact, they tend to score in the average or above-average range on intelligence tests. But they have the same social problems and limited scope of interests as children with autistic disorder.
* Pervasive developmental disorder or PDD -- also known as atypical autism. This is a kind of catchall category for children who have some autistic problems but who don't fit into other categories.
* Rett syndrome. Known to occur mainly in girls, children with Rett syndrome begin to develop normally. Then they begin to lose their communication and social skills. Beginning at the age of 1 to 4 years, repetitive hand movements replace purposeful use of the hands.
* Childhood disintegrative disorder. These children develop normally for at least two years, and then lose some or most of their communication and social skills.

What Causes Autism?

Because autism runs in families, most researchers think that certain combinations of genes may predispose a person to autism. It's currently thought that there may be several different causes of autism and that there may be several different subtypes of autism.

When a pregnant woman is exposed to certain drugs or chemicals during pregnancy, her child is more likely to be autistic. These risk factors include the use of alcohol and the use of antiseizure drugs during pregnancy. In some cases, autism has been linked to untreated phenylketonuria (called PKU, an inborn metabolic disorder caused by the absence of an enzyme), rubella (German measles), and celiac disease (an inability to tolerate gluten in grains).

Exactly why autism happens isn't clear. Research suggests that it may arise from abnormalities in parts of the brain that interpret sensory input and process language. Imbalances in brain chemicals also appear to play a role.

Researchers have no evidence that a child's psychological environment -- such as how caregivers treat the child -- causes autism.

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