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Autism

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Autism

Autism
The term “autism” comes from the Greek word “autos” meaning “self” and describes a person who is removed from social interaction (WebMD, 2010).The term autism was first used around 1911 by a Swiss physiatrist named Eugen Bleuler referring to symptoms of schizophrenia. The term autism was not used in the United States until the 1940s. Leo Kanner identified the key feature of “autistic aloneness” among his patients, describing their apparent reluctance to engage in social interaction with other people (Autism, Psychology of, 2005). Autism was thought to be the result of unloving mothers. Not until the 1960s and 1970s, a separate understanding of autism emerged. Dr. Bernard Rimland, father of an autistic son and founder of the Autism Research Institute, helped the medical community understand autism as a biological disorder (Autism Speaks, 2010).
Early treatment during the 1960s and 1970s has included medications such as Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), electric shock, and behavior change techniques (pain and punishment). Behavior therapy and highly controlled learning environments became the primary treatments during the 1980s and 1990s. During the 1990s a concern arose that the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine contributed to the development of Autism, but a study published in 1998 that theorized there could be a link has been retracted because there is little evidence to support that theory (Mayo Clinic, 2010). Other common myths include autistic children cannot be affectionate; if a child makes eye contact, he or she must not be autistic; and autistic behaviors do not change over time. These and other misconceptions stem from an early misunderstanding of autism.
Autism is a persuasive developmental disorder, affecting males five times as often as females with a prevalence of one out of every 600 live births (Autism, 2005). Other than gender, autism affects all social, ethnic, and economic groups. Autism typically last throughout a person’s life. A person mildly affected may seem out of the ordinary whereas a person severely affected may not be able to speak or care for him or herself. Early detection can make an extraordinary difference in a child’s life. However, a child may not have the same symptoms and may seem very different from a child with the same diagnosis (Autism Speaks, 2010).
Three indicators of autism is the development of social interactions, language skills, and behavior. Autism affects how children perceive the world around them. One of the first and most noticeable indicators of autism is the child’s social interaction. Social interaction with autism is difficult because a child has difficulty interpreting others thoughts and feelings and appear unaware of them. They do not understand facial expressions or the tone of a voice. An autistic child will refrain from eye contact and even cuddling. This indicator has been considered the trademark of autism because of how obvious it is in affected individuals.
Language skills are another indicator of autism. Some language skills develop later then other children develop and used in unusual ways. Things like pronoun reversals (using “he” or “she” instead on “I”), and echolalia (saying the same word or phrase repeatedly) are strong characteristics. Body language may be difficult to understand. Gestures and facial expressions may not match what is being said. Abnormal tones and rhythms such as singsong voice or robot-like speech are used in conversation of favorite things with little regard for the other person’s interest.
Children with autism may appear as though nothing is wrong with them, but there are behavioral characteristics that set them apart. Repetitive motions such as hand flapping, rocking, and spinning may be performed. A child with autism may develop specific routines and rituals. He or she may line up toy cars instead of playing with them. A child with autism will become accustomed to a schedule and any change in any of his or her areas of interest or schedule can be extremely stressful. Sometimes, these repetitive behaviors may be replaced by an intense interest in something like a vacuum cleaner or train schedules later in life.
There is no test to diagnose autism in an individual. Developmental milestones are often the best early detection tool. If there are any signs of problems a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation is needed (Centers for Disease Control, 2010). This type of evaluation will look at the child’s behavior and development, interview the parent(s), and genetic testing. It may also include hearing and vision screening and other medical tests. Specialists who can conduct this type of evaluation include developmental pediatricians, child neurologist, and child psychologist.
The neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for regulatory actions such as mood, behavior, thought process, and eating habits is associated with Autism and other similar social disorders. The connection is apparent when looking at the behaviors of a person with autism. The apathy, hand flapping, unusual gestures, and irregular eating habits are all characteristics of autism and strengthen to connect between dopamine and autism. Serotonin is another neurotransmitter that controls similar regulatory actions. Autism researchers are interested in serotonin because of the high amounts of the chemical in the blood stream platelets of a person with autism (Duke Center for Human Genetics, n.d.). However, the significance of this is unclear.
There is no cure for autism (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2010), and there is no one treatment for all autistics. However, many changes have taken place since the use of illicit drugs and shock therapy in the 1960s and 1970s. There are some pharmacological treatments with a proven affect on certain symptoms such as repetitive behaviors. Behavioral therapy, to help the individual to communicate better in social situations and structured education programs, which autistic children respond well to, are the primary forms of treatment (Autism, 2004).
Treatment involves the child, his or her entire family, a team of professionals, and parent training to create programs designed for the child. As touched upon before, treatments do not fit every child. The best treatments are designed to meet the specific needs of an individual child, the earlier the intervention, the better. Most people with autism continue to need services in their adulthood, but most work and live successful lives with a supportive environment.
Currently the focus is on early detection and treatment. If a child begins an intense and highly structured treatment program the prognosis of autism is better than that of children who do not receive treatment. However, there is still much to learn about autism.

References
Autism. (2004). In The MIT Encyclopedia of Communication Disorders. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/mitcd/autism
Autism. (2005). In Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/wileycs/autism
Autism, Psychology of. (2005). In Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/wileycs/autism_psychology_of
Autism Speaks. (2010). What is Autism?. Retrieved from http://www.autismspeaks.org/whatisit/index.php
Centers for disease Control. (2010). Autism Spectrum Disorders-Screening & Diagnosis. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov
Duke Center for Human Genetics. (n.d.). Autism. Retrieved from http://www.autism-ppd.net/research.html
Mayo Clinic for Medical Education and Research. (2010). Autism. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2010). Autism. Retrieved from http://www.ninds.nih/gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm
WebMD. (2010). History of Autism. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com

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