Imagine that you live in a world that does not quite reach you and that you cannot fully embrace. For many people with autism, this is the great separation between their world and the external reality. Autism is part of the developmental disorders called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with the first signs occurring before the age of 2 years.
It seems that the origin of autism lies in the early stages of brain development. If your kid is diagnosed with autism, it’s important to intervene immediately to benefit from existing therapies.
How common is autism?
According to statistics on autism by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 child in 88 is diagnosed with this condition, a prevalence ten times higher than 40 years ago. Studies show that autism is three to four times more common among boys than girls. According to current estimates, 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls in the United States are diagnosed with autism. The true reason for this continued increase is unknown, but improvements in diagnostic methods are thought to contribute to this, as are environmental factors.
ASD affects more than 2 million people in the United States and about 10 million people worldwide. In addition, autism statistics from the US government show that prevalence rates have increased by 10 to 17 percent per year in recent years. In comparison, this outnumbers all new pediatric cases of diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and Down syndrome.
There is probably a variety of factors leading to autism, but no conclusive link has been established.
● Research shows that people with autism have structural and chemical differences in their brains.
● Research also shows that this condition can be inherited. In studies with identical twins, if one of them has autism, the chances of the other twin having it is about 90%. The probability of autism among this population is higher than the general population. There has been research which discovered some genes as having a predisposition to autism.
● Exposure to certain toxins and pollutants during fetal development can predispose the child to develop ASD. Other events may also occur, such as low birth weight, the presence of maternal illness, difficulties with delivery, and age at conception.
● Babies or infants with autism will not respond to smiles, vocal games, or other stimuli or activities in their immediate environment. The child is also unable to maintain eye contact.
● The child with autism tends to maintain a strict order in his own world. His game may consist of aligning objects or being fascinated by a particular aspect of a toy such as its texture, smell or color – rather than being interested in its function.
Other behaviors associated with autism include:
● Abnormal postures
● Absence of fear or irrational fears
● Acts of self-harm
● Restricted activities and interests
● Short attention span
● Abnormal eating, drinking or sleeping habits
● An unexpected reaction to a stimulus (lack of interest or extreme susceptibility)
● Mood disorders
Autism does not yet have a cure. Occasionally, people with autism can stay at home. However, more often than not they receive comprehensive care, in a specialized institution or care network, on a continuous basis or in the form of repeated consultations. The care is based on the psychotherapy of the child, attempts to develop the child’s social relations, sometimes medication, and of course the care of loved ones.
Autism management methods have several approaches, usually cognitive or behavioral. The ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) and TEACCH (Treatment and Education Autistic and Communication related Handicapped Children*) methods are common autism management methods, which have been proven with autistic people, especially when started early.
*Note: Though the TEACCH acronym uses ‘Handicapped’, it is current practice to use disabled or disability instead.