Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD's) are a group of developmental disabilities that may cause significant social, behavioral, and communication challenges. People with ASD's handle information in their brain differently than others. The term, 'spectrum disorders,' means that every person is affected individually, with affects that can range from mild to severe.
People with ASD's share symptoms that are similar such as issues with social interaction. There are; however, differences in when the symptoms the person experiences begin, the severity of the symptoms, as well as the exact nature of the symptoms. Children with autism might experience difficulties with developing language skills and understanding what other people say to them. They may also have difficulties with communicating nonverbally, such as through eye contact, hand gestures, or facial expressions.
Not every child with autism will experience language issues. A child's ability to communicate will vary depending upon their intellectual and social development. Some children with autism might be unable to speak, while others may have extensive vocabularies and the ability to speak about specific topics in vast detail.
The majority of children with autism have little to no problem with word pronunciation. Most; however, do experience difficulties with using language effectively – particularly when speaking with other people. Many children with autism have problems with the meaning and rhythm of words and sentences, and may be unable to understand body language and the nuances of vocal tones.
With Each Generation, A New Diagnosis?
Every generation or so it seems there is some form of diagnosis that becomes a, 'fit-all,' for what then becomes a series of diagnosis later in time. In my mother's day, the diagnosis was, 'schizophrenia,' which then became diagnosis such as manic depression, bipolar disorder, unipolar disorder, and more. In my time, 'combat fatigue,' became, 'combat stress,' PTSD, anxiety, and other diagnosis. Today, children are being diagnosed with autism, and the rates of autism now find one out of every eighty-eight children receiving this diagnosis.
What will the future bring where the diagnosis of autism is concerned? Unlike schizophrenia, bipolar disorder PTSD, or other diagnosis, the numbers of people who experience autism are incredibly high. With schizophrenia, it took a period of time for medical science to gain the ability to distinguish between forms of mental health disabilities such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression and stop throwing everyone under the label of, 'schizophrenia.' The same is true of combat fatigue, something that was experienced by civilians as well as soldiers.
People who experience autism may find themselves being diagnosed with a specific form of the disability such as Asperger's syndrome. Medical science has already reached the point of labeling different forms of autism, leaving the future unknown as to where further diagnosis will lead. With so many children and adults who experience autism, and even more people being diagnosed every single day, where can medical science go with the diagnosis of autism other than to research the cause or causes?
What Accounts for Such a Jump in Prevalence?
Pardon the sinister overtones, but the exceptionally high rate of autism in America comes across as an incredible medical mess up on the part of our society, the food we consume, the pharmaceutical industry, or perhaps even an attempt to somehow frighten people into not having children. What has changed in the diet of Americans that could possibly account for an increase in the rate of autism of twenty-three percent between 2006 and 2008? What medications have been administered? What has changed so greatly that this has occurred? Is there an as yet undiscovered form of communicable disease that is causing autism?
All of the causes of autism spectrum disorders (ASD's) are not known; however, medical science has learned that there are a number of likely causes of ASD's. Various factors that are environmental, genetic, or biological may make a child more likely to experience a form of autism. Take into consideration:
- ASD's tend to occur more often in people who experience certain medical conditions
- Children who have a parent or sibling with an ASD are at a higher risk of experiencing an ASD
- Most scientists agree that genes are one of the risk factors that may make a person more likely to develop autism
- Some harmful medications taken during pregnancy have been linked with an increased risk of ASD's such as valproic acid or thalidomide
- Approximately 10% of children with an ASD have an identifiable genetic disorder such as tuberous sclerosis, Fragile X syndrome, Down syndrome, or another chromosomal disorder
A certain amount of evidence exists concerning the crucial period for developing ASD's prior to birth. It is important to note; however, that concerns about vaccines and infections have led researchers to consider risk factors both before and after birth. It is also important to understand that any beliefs associating poor parenting practices with ASD's are simply untrue.
Is It Our Diet?
Although the research is inconclusive, several parents have reported anecdotal evidence of improvements and choose to continue the gluten free/casein free diet. Currently, this diet is one of the most commonly prescribed for children with autism. Despite the lack of solid evidence, many caregivers and parents report having seen behavioral improvements in children following this diet.
An area of research is looking into the effects of a diet that minimizes a person's exposure to artificial flavorings, dyes, and preservatives, focusing largely on plant-based organic foods. Artificial ingredients are believed to be highly inflammatory in a person's body and might therefore potentially exacerbate the symptoms associated with autism. Some research has suggested there might be a link between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and pesticides – something which also provides a strong basis for examining the same effects in relation to children with autism.
So Many Children, So Many Parents
Parents who have just received a diagnosis of an ASD for their child probably worry and wonder what exactly will happen next in life. No parent is ever prepared to hear a diagnosis of autism and it can be scary. Feeling unsure about the best ways to help your child, or confused about different or conflicting types of treatments and advice is something many parents of children with autism face. Parents may have been told that autism is a life-long form of disability that has no cure and feel as if there is nothing they can do that will change anything or make a difference.
While it is true that autism is a disability that will not simply disappear as a child grows older, there are many types of treatments that can help a child to learn new skills. A child with autism can overcome many developmental challenges. A number of free services are available for children with autism, such as school programs and in-home behavioral therapy. Assistance is available to parents for their child's needs. A child with autism can, with an appropriate treatment plan and lots of love and support – grow, learn, and thrive in life.
"The Autism Research Institute (ARI) is the hub of a worldwide network of parents and professionals concerned with autism. ARI was founded in 1967 to conduct and foster scientific research designed to improve the methods of diagnosing, treating, and preventing autism. ARI also disseminates research findings to parents and others worldwide seeking help."
"Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees."
One of the very best things to do from the start is to accept and love your child and their unique individuality. Instead of focusing on the differences between average children and your own, make a practice of acceptance.