What is AUTISM
The definition of autism is a complex process. Most experts agree that autism is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interactions, limited communication and repetitive behaviors. Signs usually appear before age 3. The cause isn't clear, but recent scientific studies believe there is a strong genetic base. New research comes out almost every day on possible causes. Some groups advocate for environmental causes such as induced labor, heavy metals, pesticides and childhood vaccinations.
Autism occurs four times more in boys than in girls. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders has drastically risen since the 1980’s. Some studies now claim 1-150 children are diagnosed as autistic with occurrence in as many as 1-94 boys. It is unclear if this is due to the different definitions of autism used today, diagnostic practices or if the actual amount of cases has increased.
There has also been an increase in the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome. Some parents claim their child seemed different from birth while others say their child developed normally and than later in life, lost skills.
SYMPTOMS of AUTISM:
Signs usually are noticed during the first two years of life. Symptoms can begin around 6 months of age and become established by 2-3 years of age. They usually continue throughout adulthood. Autism is not distinguished by a single symptom, but a group of symptoms that include the following:
Impairments in social interaction
Impairments in communication
Social and communication impairments include a lack of response to social stimuli, lack of smiling or eye contact and not responding to one’s name. Other characteristics are lack of pretend play, lack of imitation, inability to sustain conversation, aloofness and acting like they don’t seem to hear.
Repetitive behaviors are called stereotypy and involve repeated movements such as hand flapping, making sounds, head rolling and body rocking. Compulsive behavior involves arranging objects or toys in stacks or lines.
Restricted interests include an unvarying pattern of daily activities and limited interests like a pre-occupation with a single TV show, toy or game.
Self injuries are movements that injure or can injure the child like eye poking, skin picking, hand biting and head banging.
Sleep problems can include insomnia, nocturnal awakening and early morning wakening.
The DEFINATION OF AUTISM CAN RANGE FROM MILD to SEVERE.
Determining how severe a child's symptoms are can be based on their overall IQ and on how much daily support the child needs.
Doctors now recommend screening for autistic symptoms at baby well checks beginning around 12 months. Speak to your pediatrician if you notice the following:
No babbling by 12 months
No gesturing by 12 months
No single words by 16 months
No two word spontaneous sentences by 24 months
Any loss of language or social skills.
The definition of autism is based on a child's behavioral symptoms. To receive a diagnosis, a child must have at least six symptoms. Two must be from the social interaction list, one from the impairment of communication list and one demonstrating restricted and repetitive behavior. The onset of symptoms must occur before age 3.
Not everyone agrees on what defines autism. Because the definition of autism relies on a subjective analysis of symptoms and not on a medical test, it is possible for different evaluations to come up with different recommendations. At the IEP meeting, agreeing on appropriate services for your child can be frustrating. Remember, that developing the IEP is a collaborative process between you and the school district.
Agreeing on appropriate services may involve significant negotiations. Non-profit organizations like Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of America can assist you with learning about the latest available therapies, treatment and research. Resources like the child behavior guide can provide you with information and strategies related to child behavior, pervasive developmental disorders and ADHD.