1 Autism is a social, mental, and physical condition that affects children and adults every year. Many families have dealt and are dealing with the struggles that accompany this disease. Autism can affect a person in various ways, and there are many different forms that can range from mild to severe. Autism stays with a person throughout their whole life. It is believed that two to six of every thousand people on the Earth suffer from autism. American psychiatrist Leo Kanner came up with the name Autism in the 1940’s from the Greek word for self. Chez, 20) There is no known cause or treatment for this disease as of today, but researchers are learning more every day. One parent described her child, saying, “There was no joy, no sadness, no curiosity, no connection, nothing. ” (Seroussi, 28) There are many symptoms of Autism. These symptoms can be displayed as early as birth, or as late as adulthood, but most cases appear in young children. These symptoms can also range in severity. Some cases are undiagnosed because of the subtleness of the symptoms, while others make it impossible for a person to function on their own.
Some of these symptoms can be mental, but most of the recognized signs of Autism are physical. There are also many different kinds of Autism. There is Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Asperger’s syndrome, Rett syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD). Each of these come with their own set of symptoms, and affect a person differently. Most people just clump all of these conditions together as Autism, but the “scientific” term for these syndromes is “Autism Spectrum Disorders” or “Pervasive Developmental Disorders. ” 2
The symptoms of Autism can be mental or physical. The mental aspect of Autism can hinder a child from being able to communicate and interact with others. There are many combinations of the symptoms that can change a way a child interacts in many different forms. There are three main parts of a child’s social life that Autism can affect. Autism can cause abnormal social interactions, abnormal communication, and/or restrictive or repetitive interests and behaviors. (Chez, 32) Abnormal social interaction comes in a variety of forms. There could be a failure to seek comfort in ones parent or a lack of eye contact.
Some children won’t respond to their name being called or won’t want to play with other children. Most Autistic children don’t understand social behaviors necessary to interact safely and normally with others. This tends to lead the children into isolation. There is also a sense of abnormal communication linked to Autism. Most Autistic children don’t develop their language as early as normal children would. Some children wont ever develop any type of verbal language. They will learn sign language, or other forms of hand gestures. They use facial expressions to communicate with others.
Some children will talk endlessly about one subject, going on for hours and hours about the same thing. Autistic children tend to take words literally and speak very precisely. Some suffer from echolalia, which is repeating what is said but not actually replying or responding to a question or statement. Finally, Autism can present with restrictive or repetitive interests or behaviors. Some children will find an interest in one certain thing or subject. One child might have an obsession with clocks, another with airplanes, and another with calendars.
A child could find an interest in 3 anything you could possibly imagine. They usually spend all of their time nurturing this interest, and don’t think much about anything else. They will also isolate themselves in that way. Some children suffer from repetitive movements such as hand flapping, rocking, or head banging. Some suffer from OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. They will do things such as placing all their toys in a row instead of playing with them, or organizing things to such an extent that some would find it unnecessary.
Most Autistic children insist on everything being the same, and don’t know how to react to any type of change. One parent described her child, saying, “His screams sounded like a foreign language. ” (Seroussi, 25) She also said her child suffered from obsessive clapping, patting his head, and touching the table constantly. Another child would sit and watch the family fishes for hours a day and would just walk back and forth on the gravel in the driveway. He sat and screamed for hours also. He also suffered from a lack of communication. He could never say what he wanted.
He just pointed and screamed. Another child cried constantly. He would cry when he didn’t get his bottle. But that wasn’t all. He would cry the second he woke up every single morning. He could cry for at least half an hour after every single nap he took, and nothing seemed to help ever. Any parent of an Autistic child can relate to these stories. The symptoms of this disease can also be physical. Some children can suffer from various conditions such as reflux, insomnia, or ear infections. Few children will suffer 4 from “glue ear” which is an inflammation in the middle section of the ear.
There is usually fluid build up that may or may not be infected. This can cause an excruciating earache. Some children will suffer from eczema, high fevers, or seizures. Others can have chronic nonspecific diarrhea or a language delay. It is believed that 40-50% of children suffering from autism also suffer from gastrointestinal reflux. Some may also suffer from chronic constipation. Some children may have constantly shaking limbs. It has been seen that some children will get autoimmune diseases. As you can see, there is an array of other symptoms that can accompany Autism.
Some children can experience most of these, while others will experience barely any. Each case is different, and each family has their own way of dealing with these symptoms. There are many things that are believed to be causes of Autism, and many different types of Autism. Three main things that are believed to cause Autism are environmental factors, dietary deficiencies, and genetics. There is an abnormality in the development of the brain in Autistic children. All of the symptoms are too complex for one part of the brain to be able to cause them all though.
It has been discovered that there are lower numbers of Purkinje cells in the brains of Autistic children. These cells are very important and vital to coordination of movement. This discovery may suggest that these cells may play a role in the planning or function part of ones brain. Scientists are currently trying to find out what part of the reduction of these cells causes all of Autisms many symptoms. Usually children with Autism are born with a smaller head 5 than normal, and experience great growth in their first year. This is believed to be an environmental cause of Autism.
Some scientists think that if a pregnant woman is exposed to rubella (German measles) or other drugs it can cause a child to develop Autism. Some people would believe that since most Autistic children have trouble learning, they could receive a simple diagnosis of mental retardation. But this is not so. Children who are mentally retarded usually present with a smaller brain size than normal. But most children with Autism have a larger brain than others. This suggests that even though Autism and mental retardation sometimes present together, the causes of both are completely different from one another.
There are many different difficulties with diagnosing Autism. Some parents are believed to have a mental disorder, or their doctors don’t believe them. They think they are overreacting to what is a normal childhood. But these parents know that there is something wrong with their child. Some parents will lose sleep and seem very anxious, leading the doctors to believe there is something wrong with them and not the child. One mother even suffered flashbacks. One parent said “You cant compare him to Laura- she was so precocious. Boys talk later than girls do. He’s had so many ear infections.
Alan didn’t talk until he was three. My next-door neighbors son didn’t talk until he was four. ”(source 2 p 23) There are many different factors in the diagnosis process that can hinder a family or doctor from getting the correct diagnosis. 6 Once a child has received the diagnosis of Autism, doctors still have to sort through all of the different types of Autism. Some children will suffer from Aspergers syndrome. They are characterized as being very fluent in language. They tend to have anxiety or seek attention. Some children can suffer from OCD or spelling of phonic issues.
There can also be sleep dysfunction or epilepsy in these children. Most children will present with social awkwardness, anger issues or violence, or appear lost. Some will have a sensitivity to touch or noise. Children with Rett syndrome tend to present with breathing problems. These can be very difficult for a parent to watch. Some will present with apraxia, floppy looking arms or legs, or bluish arms or legs caused by poor circulation. Children with PDD-NOS tend to seem eager to make friends, but may not act normally around others. They tend to end up being very close with their parents.
Most PDD-NOS children cannot read facial expressions or interpret the feelings of others. They also tend to have delayed speech. CDD is characterized by at least two years of normal development, followed by loss of language, social skills, and motor skills before age ten. It is important to note that every case is different, and some children can present with none of these symptoms, while others will seem to have all of them. There are many different ways to “treat” Autism. Some families will try to restrict a childs diet or change the types of activities they take part in.
Others will try therapy. There is no known cure for Autism as of today, but researchers are working together to attempt at finding a way to get rid of this life changing disease. A child with Autism has several doctors. Most children will have a regular pediatrician, a pyschatrist, 7 a neurologist, a diatrician, and a developmental pediatrician. (Chez, 54) Each of these doctors plays a very important role in the treatment and management of Autism. One form of treatment for some families is diet. Some families will try to exclude certain foods or food groups from a childs diet.
One mother said that even though she knew her son loved milk and cheese, she deicided to exclude any and all dairy products from his diet. These effects can be positive or negative. One family noted that when there was no dairy in their childs diet, they saw an improvement in eye contact. Another family saw that when they switched their child to pure cows milk, things took a turn for the worse. Another family noticed that their child craved wheat constantly. They decided to limit his amount of it, and noticed a slight improvement.
Removal of gluten (a protein found in barley, rye, oats, and wheat) and casein (a protein found in dairy products), is what is known as a Gluten Free, Casein Free diet, or GFCF. There is no scientific research behind the hypothesis of GFCF, but many families have noted that it has regulated many of the habitual behaviors. Some families believe that diet can be a main cause of Autism, and changing their child’s eating habits can help to change their symptoms. The other option of treatment is to try some kind of therapy. Most families will try therapy at one point or another.
Some will try behavioral intervention, where a child is rewarded for “normal” behaviors. There is also the option of behavioral analysis, where a doctor or therapist will observe a child and try to “fix” some abnormal behaviors. Some families will turn to drug therapy, which has been reported to reduce 8 some repetitive behaviors. Some children will be put on a regimen of antipsychotics, mood stabilizing meds, and/or stimulants or non-stimulants. Some families will try to cure their child through various immunizations. There have been immunizations of brain fluid and spinal tissue in the past.
Sometimes serum samples can be used. There are a variety of treatments, but one thing is very important to realize. One type of treatment could work wonders for one child, but have no affect on another. Each child is different, and each case varies. “Would I do anything for my child? What would I risk to save a stranger’s child? Will I fight this thing, beat it down until it exists no more to torture innocent families? This goal will become part of my life, my daily purpose, my reason for living. I have no choice. I will be driven in a way that I never dreamed I could, and I will not rest until the beast has been slain. (Seroussi, 61) This quote shows how any family would do anything for their child. Autism is a social disease that affects hundreds of thousands. The affects of Autism aren’t seen in just the child though, as you can see. A family will also suffer. They will deal with the stress and difficulty of raising a child who at times cannot communicate, and will have many health issues. A family can be torn apart by this, or come closer together. In the end, it’s all about the love that said family shares for one another, and their precious child.
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