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Autism / Autism Spectrum Information

  • Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder which manifests itself in markedly abnormal social interaction, communication ability, patterns of interests, and patterns of behavior. Although the specific etiology of autism is unknown, many researchers suspect that autism results from genetically mediated vulnerabilities to environmental triggers. While there is disagreement about the magnitude, nature, and mechanisms for such environmental factors, researchers have found seven genes prevalent among individuals diagnosed as autistic...

  • Some estimate that autism occurs in as many as one American child in 166, however the National Institute of Mental Health gives a more conservative estimate of one in 1000. For families that already have one autistic child, the odds of a second autistic child may be as high as one in twenty. Although autism is about 3 to 4 times more common in boys, girls with the disorder tend to have more severe symptoms and greater cognitive impairment. Diagnosis is based on a list of psychiatric criteria, and a series of standardized clinical tests may also be used.

    Autism may not be physiologically obvious. A complete physical and neurological evaluation will typically be part of diagnosing autism. Some now speculate that autism is not a single condition but a group of several distinct conditions that manifest in similar ways.

    By definition, autism must manifest delays in "social interaction, language as used in social communication, or symbolic or imaginative play," with "onset prior to age 3 years", according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The ICD-10 also requires symptoms to be "manifest before the age of three years." There have been large increases in the reported incidence of autism, for reasons that are heavily debated by researchers in psychology and related fields within the scientific community.

    With intense therapy and practice and schooling, some children diagnosed with autism can improve their social and other skills to the point where they can fully participate in mainstream education and social events, but there are no indications that a cure from autism is possible with current technology or advances in medicine. Some autistic children and adults who are able to communicate (at least in writing) are opposed to attempts to cure their autism, because they (and/or the guardians) see autism as part of who they are.

    Autism presents in a wide degree, from those who are nearly dysfunctional and apparently mentally handicapped to those whose symptoms are mild or remedied enough to appear unexceptional ("normal") to the general public. Although not used or accepted by professionals or within the literature, autistic individuals are often divided into those with an IQ<80 referred to as having "low-functioning autism" (LFA), while those with IQ>80 are referred to as having "high-functioning autism" (HFA). Low and high functioning are more generally applied to how well an individual can accomplish activities of daily living, rather than to IQ. The terms low and high functioning are controversial and not all autistics accept these labels.

    This discrepancy can lead to confusion among service providers who equate IQ with functioning and may refuse to serve high-IQ autistic people who are severely compromised in their ability to perform daily living tasks, or may fail to recognize the intellectual potential of many autistic people who are considered LFA. For example, some professionals refuse to recognize autistics who can speak or write as being autistic at all, because they still think of autism as a communication disorder so severe that no speech or writing is possible.

    As a consequence, many "high-functioning" autistic persons, and autistic people with a relatively high IQ, are underdiagnosed, thus making the claim that "autism implies retardation" self-fulfilling. The number of people diagnosed with LFA is not rising quite as sharply as HFA, indicating that at least part of the explanation for the apparent rise is probably better diagnostics. Many also think that ASD's are being over diagnosed, due to the spectrum quality of the impairments and the desire to obtain services through schools and therapies.

    The autistic spectrum (sometimes referred to as the autism spectrum) is a developmental and behavioral syndrome that results from certain combinations of traits. Although these traits may be normally distributed in the population, some individuals inherit or otherwise manifest more autistic traits. At the severe end of the spectrum is low-functioning autism which has profound impairments in many areas, to Asperger's syndrome and high-functioning autism, to "normal" behaviour and perhaps hypersocialization on the high end of the spectrum.

    In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10), autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are classified as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), as opposed to specific developmental disorders like dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, or dyspraxia. Also many people diagnosed with any of the Autistic spectrum disorders are more likely to end up in poverty.

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View Top Autism and Autism Spectrum Answers at sharecare.com

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Problem behaviors may include: (1) self-injury, aggression, and other destructive acts, (2) tantrums and other disruptive responses, and (3) excessively repetitive or irritating behaviors including actions that interfere with a person’s learning or social interactions.
The stories of parents describing the transformation of their previously healthy children into children with autism are strong and common, but large-scale epidemiologic studies in a number of countries clearly demonstrate that vaccines are not responsible for the autism epidemic. It may trigger autism in a small number of genetically primed ... Read More »
Much of the answer to this question lies with how aggressively parents have pursued an autism diagnosis (the earlier the better) and have accessed the Early Intervention service system.

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