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Understanding autism

Written by By: Government Employee Medical Scheme
With the 2nd of April being World Autism Awareness Day, there are many misconceptions about the disability. Many autistic people find the world to be an extremely scary place where people, places and events become confused and jumbled into a big mess that is difficult to understand.

WHAT IS AUTISM?
Autism spectrum disorder 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 believed to be combination of a genetic and environmental factors and affects four to five times more boys than girls. The disorder largely affects communication abilities; this is why most parents don’t know that their child is autistic until around the age of two or older.

TYPES OF AUTISM
There are different types of autism and different cases vary from mild to severe.

AUTISM OR AUTISTIC DISORDER
What it is: A collection of developmental disorders in which a child engages in repetitive behaviours and has trouble communicating and connecting with others. It’s usually diagnosed around age two or three, although some signs show up earlier. Symptoms can be mild to severe.

REGRESSIVE AUTISTIC SPECTRUM DISORDER
What it is: Like autism, except that a child appears to develop normally until 18 to 24 months, then starts to regress. It occurs in about 20 to 30 per cent of children with autism spectrum disorders.

PERVASIVE DEVELOPMENT DISORDER
What it is: A child has a few autistic traits but doesn’t meet the full criteria for an autism diagnosis.

ASPERGER'S SYNDROME
What it is: A milder form of autism, usually diagnosed between ages two and six, in which a child has good language skills and average to above-average intelligence but is socially awkward and engages in odd, repetitive behaviours.

CHILDHOOD DISINTEGRATIVE DISORDER (CDD)
What it is: A very rare disorder in which normally developing children lose motor, language, social, and potty skills around ages two to four.

RETT SYNDROME
What it is: An extremely rare disorder, similar to CDD, which occurs only in girls.

SYMPTOMS OF AUTISM

  • Lack of or delayed spoken language.
  • Repetitive mannerisms or tics such as flapping of hands.
  • Lack of eye contact.
  • Lack of interest in family members or friends.
  • Lack of make-believe playing.
  • Fixation with specific objects, or parts of objects.

Despite the effects of autism on the brain, many autism sufferers display extremely high levels of intelligence and there seems to be a particular pattern of an ability for a memory of numbers and patterns in these individuals.

The cause of autism is unknown, however, it always becomes apparent in the early years of a child’s development.

It is for this reason that most experts believe it to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors, although there is no scientific proof on the subject.

Because of this there is no way to knowingly prevent autism, nor is there a cure for it.

The lack of diagnosis in developing countries means that the World Health Organization is unable to give any statistics on the global incidence rate.

This lack of diagnosis also means that the condition of children with autism is likely to get worse, as although there is no cure for the disorder, early intervention has been proven to lead to significantly better results.

Intervention ranges from medical and dietary treatment to psychological therapy, but because no two cases of autism are the same, there are no set rules of recommendation for improvement.

Additional information from www.parents.com