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Hca 240 - Wk 8 - Mental Illness - Autism

In: Social Issues

Submitted By madickl
Words 1682
Pages 7
Mental Illness - Autism
January 19, 2014

Mental Illness - Autism This paper about a form of mental illness called autism will explore many aspects of the disease, such as the history, sign and symptoms, and diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Autism is a serious developmental disorder that shows up in early childhood, normally before the age of 3 years old. Even though over the last five years scientist have identified a number of rare gene changes, also known as mutations, associated with autism, it is still not clear what causes this developmental disorder in the brain. Furthermore, central nervous system changes have also been associated with this disease, but no definite links have yet been made (Autism Speaks, n.d.). Let us begin with the history of autism. This disorder, first described in 1943 by a psychiatrist named Leo Kanner in a paper he wrote that described how 11 children whom all shared high intelligence, a severe preference for being alone and insisting on point of being obsessive on doing things exactly at the same time each day (Autism Speaks, 2013). In addition, Autism Speaks (2013) stated, “Through the 1960s, psychiatrists continued to view autism as a form of childhood schizophrenia” (para. 4). Psychiatrists also believed during this period that the idea a mother who was emotionally distant from their child caused autism, which was found not to be factor at all (Autism Speaks, 2013). It was not until the 1970s that scientist understood that biological differences in the development of the brain caused autism. Furthermore, clear separation from childhood schizophrenia and autism put into place in the 1980s using objective conditions helped in diagnosing autism (Autism Speaks, 2013). Some of the symptoms of autism include children who usually have problems in the important areas of development, which are social interaction, language and behavior (Mayo Clinic, 2012). In fact, autism symptoms and the severity of them vary greatly, and two different children diagnosed the same type autism may act differently and have extremely different skill sets (Mayo Clinic, 2012). In addition, the Mayo Clinic (2012) states, “In most cases, though, children with severe autism have marked impairments or a complete inability to communicate or interact with other people” (para. 4). Although some children may show signs of autism early in their infancy, other children may not show any signs or symptoms until the first years of their lives when they may become suddenly withdrawn or aggressive, and lose language skills they had already learned (Mayo Clinic, 2012). Each child who has autism shows a different pattern of behavior, and some of the most common symptoms of autism with social skills are problems such as failing to respond to his or her name, poor eye contact with other people, and appears not to hear you at times. They would prefer playing alone, and do not ask for help or request things. The most common symptoms for concern of autism with language are when a child does not speak or experiences delay in their speech, or loses previously learned abilities to say words or sentences (Mayo Clinic, 2012). In addition, when requesting something they do not make eye contact, and does not appear to understand simple questions or directions. Furthermore, the most common symptoms with behavior are moving constantly, unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch, but pain does not bother them, and they do not engage in imitative or make believe play (Mayo Clinic, 2012). In the last few years awareness of a disease known as Pediatric Neurotransmitter Diseases (PND) has increased, which led to the recognition of uncommon overlaps with autism in certain people (Autism Speaks, 2008). PND defined as a collection of uncommon diseases in children related to irregularities in the synthesis and breakdown of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) (Autism Speaks, 2008). These neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that communicate information between cells in the nervous system, and all are controlled by a delicate balance between movement, thought, and homeostatic regulations in the body. Hence, any imbalance, especially in a developing brain such as an infant, can result in many of the motor, cognitive and regulatory troubles found in children with autism (Autism Speaks, 2008). According to the Mayo Clinic (2012), they state, “For your child to be diagnosed with autism, he or she must meet the symptom criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association” (Diagnostic criteria for autism). Thus, to receive a diagnosis of autism, they must have six or more of the following symptoms, and two or more of those symptoms must fall under the social skills category (Mayo Clinic, 2012). The symptoms in social skills include difficulty with nonverbal behaviors, like making eye contact, or making facial expressions and using gestures. Other symptoms would be a hard time forming friendships with peers, and would rather play by their selves, does not share achievements or point out objects or other interests, and appears unaware of how other people feel (Mayo Clinic, 2012). The symptoms in communication skills include a delay in speaking or not speaking at all. They also make no attempt to communicate with gestures or miming, and are not able to start a conversation or participate in one. Furthermore, they may be prone to repeat words or phrases verbatim, but does not know how to use them, and does not play make-believe or imitate the behavior of adults when playing with other children (Mayo Clinic, 2012). In addition, the symptoms of behavior include developing interests in objects or topics are abnormal in intensity, detail or focus, performs repetitive movements, such as rocking back and forth, spinning and hand flapping. The behavior symptoms also include becoming agitated at the slightest change in routines or rituals, and may be fascinated by parts of an object (Mayo Clinic, 2012). Moreover, many types of professionals are involved in diagnosing autism in a child, such as psychologists, educators, medical professionals, parents or support providers. Even though there is no cure for autism, and the treatment options for one child may not work for another child because of the different spectrums associated with autism. Thus, the wide variety of home-based and school-based treatments and interventions for children with autism can be overwhelming for many parents (Mayo Clinic, 2012). However, parents must keep in mind the goal of the treatment for their child’s autism is to expand the child’s ability to function by reducing the autism symptoms and supporting development and learning. Every parent who has a child with autism should consult their doctor to help identify the correct treatment option available in their area (Mayo Clinic, 2012). Some of the treatment options available are behavior and communication therapies where they focus on the range of social, language and behavioral issues that affect children with autism. Educational therapies have proven to help children with autism respond well to highly structured education programs where a team of professionals use a variety of activities to improve social skills, communication and behavior (Mayo Clinic, 2012). It has also been noted that preschool age children receive intensive, individualized behavioral interventions usually show good progress (Mayo Clinic, 2012). Furthermore, family therapies where parents and families can learn how to play and interact with their children where they promote social interaction skills, manage problem behavior, and teach daily living skills and communication can be very beneficial for some children diagnosed with autism. There are no medications that can improve the primary signs of autism, but there are medications the can help control the symptoms associated with autism (Mayo Clinic, 2012). Moreover, the patient’s environment can promote or detract from successful treatment by making sure the treatment therapies and methods used to address the specific child and their specific needs. Every child responds differently to any kind of therapy for autism so it is important to keep this in mind (Doman, 2004). Fortunately, the diagnosis and treatment for autism has come a long way since 1943 when psychiatrist Leo Kranner, first described the disorder (Autism Speaks, 2013). It was not until the 1970s when scientist started to realize that autism began as a biological difference in brain development. They also started using objective criteria for diagnosing autism in the 1980s. This period also involved separating childhood schizophrenia from a child thought to have autism (Autism Speaks, 2013). Furthermore, treatments for autism are now tailored to the child, and their needs. This is because every child with autism has different reactions to the same treatments. In contrast, before the 1970s when autism was seen as a mental disorder known as childhood schizophrenia, which is diagnosed and treated much differently than autism (Autism Speaks, 2013). In conclusion, over the last five years, scientist identified a number of rare gene changes or mutations connected with autism. However, the cause of autism is not known for two main reasons. First, no genes have yet been identified as being closely associated with it. But most important, it has been suggested that central nervous system changes are also related to this developmental disorder, however, no definite links have been made. As a result, more research should be devoted to this disease in order for researchers and scientist to identify the cause, which could help millions of children with autism lead normal lives.

Autism Speaks. (2008, September 8). Meeting addresses Pediatric Neurotransmitter Disease and autism commonalities. Retrieved from
Autism Speaks. (2013, September 19). Autism at 70 – from Kanner to DSM-5. Retrieved from
Autism Speaks. (n.d.). What is autism? Retrieved from
Doman Jr., Robert J. (2004). The autism spectrum. The NACD Foundation. Volume 17. No. 1, 2004. Retrieved from
Mayo Clinic. (2012, October 6). Diseases and conditions. Autism. Basics. Retrieved from

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