Things to Know About Autism
The complex developmental disability known as Autism is commonly manifested through a wide range of difficulties in the areas of non-verbal communication and social interaction. Various journals have revealed that this neurological disorder can be observed within the first three years after birth. Autism is part of a group of mental disorders that share common inherited genetic variations.
Wide Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autistic Spectrum Disorder is categorized as a wide spectrum disorder. This means that no two people with this condition will display the same symptoms or combination of symptoms. People with ASD suffer from brain abnormalities resulting in developmental disabilities. Most of those afflicted with the condition stick to a specific set of behaviors and are normally resistant to change.
Social Interaction – Behaviour displayed by those with ASD is considered rather abnormal. Many can be socially offensive, clumsy, out of touch, outright disinterested, and avoid eye contact. In terms of treatment of this characteristic, the most basic approach includes teaching them the importance of eye contact especially when talking with others. People with ASD are perceived to be socially distant, but the reality is that they just lack the basic talking and playing skills to allow them to function normally around other people without ASD.
Lack of Empathy – People with ASD usually do not understand their own feelings let alone those of others. Therefore, the instinct to empathise is marginal. Autism takes away the natural tendency of a person to express empathy both verbally and physically. Since most autistics are tremendously engaged in subjects of extreme interest to them, you may find it difficult to hold a conversation with them on a wide range of subjects. Many with ASD also talk more about themselves compared to an ordinary person.
Physical Interaction – Children with ASD don’t respond to physical interaction normally. Not all children with ASD shy away from physical contact, but the majority of them prefer not to be touched or cuddled. It is safe to say that when you hug or even tickle a child with autism, you may get a surprising response instead of the expected giggle or hug in return.
Surprise Triggers – many believe that loud noises, some odours, intense light, and sudden change in temperature can be unpleasant or shocking to those with ASD. The reality though is that these triggers shock response because the child with autism is not prepared for the sudden changes making it difficult for them to cope.
Speaking Skills – it is common for children with ASD to seldom speak or not at all. They may even exhibit echolalia where they repeat the words or phrases they hear. When children with autism speak the lack of emotion can be very evident to the point that they may sound flat, woody, or extremely formal.
Predictability – routine is golden for those with autism. This is why it is normal to observe repetitive behaviour from them. Doing the same activity multiple times a day may seem bizarre for most, but for those with ASD, breaking their routine or interfering with what they have been accustomed to can make them extremely upset. Change can never be forced on them.
Unequal Development – unlike ordinary children, those with autism may develop in some aspects faster than in other areas of their lives. This means that their language skills may rapidly develop while their motor skills get left behind. This is why they may seem intellectually superior but physically inferior to children of the same age. Social skills generally develop the slowest among those with ASD. This type of development can also lead to a lot of unpredictability in terms of learning.
Twitches and Obsessions – this is commonly a form of expression brought about by an unexplained urge. Not all with ASD have this tendency, but normally, those who do find it enjoyable and have a favourite place where they do it. At first, these actions may be shocking to parents. Many with autism become obsessive about certain things in their lives.
The most common belief is that those with autism have the gift of music or numbers. It is true that a huge number of those with ASD are exemplary in the field of math and music as well as have high IQs; however, not all are this gifted.
It is also a large misconception that those with ASD have no feelings. The truth is that they may experience or express their feelings differently than ordinary children, but in no means are their emotions detached. It is important for people to understand this myth so that they can be aware of the feelings of those with autism. Showing them love and support can help children with ASD to cope better with the circumstances around them.
Huge benefits can be reaped with early intervention techniques for ASD. It has been noted that those who received early intervention showed improved communication skills, brain function, and even social behaviour based on a research made by the Yale School of Medicine.
The research reported in the November issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorder noted how providing early pivotal response treatment and parental involvement can be useful in the learning and development of young children with ASD.
These findings may be critical given the fact that recent researches have revealed certain conditions to heighten the risk of autism. Children that have older fathers or parents that have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are found to be at higher risk of having ASD.
Other research showed how particulate matter (PM) found in air traffic pollution can affect pregnant mothers causing their children to be at risk to autism. Exposure to this type of pollution likewise heightened the possibility of autism because of the nitrogen dioxide that can be inhaled by pregnant mothers.
Irregularities in the immune system as well as certain gene mutations are also pinpointed as factors that can activate autism in children as early as the fetus development stage in the mother’s womb. Gene mutations in the PIK3CA, AKT3, and PIK3R2 are linked to ASD development.
The mutation is responsible for the encoding of the SynGAP1 protein that greatly interrupts early development of brain circuits. These genetic mutations are being identified in research works as the source of cognitive and behavioural difficulties in people with autism. This type of protein alone is the cause of approximately one million disabilities worldwide, thereby increasing the risk of autism.
In a research led by Professor Gavin Rumbaugh, they focused on a mutation that has been identified to result in intellectual disability. For the first time, they observed how the effect on the synapses impacted brain development and cognitive skills in people with ASD. With the SynGAP1 being one of the vital genes in the development of cognitive abilities, any mutation will disrupt its function including the correct development of the brain.
Brain Chemistry Development
Chemicals like creatine, N-acetylaspartate, and choline in the grey matter of the brain develop at different rates for those with ASD. This has been observed in children from 3 to 10 years old compared to those suffering from unknown causes of developmental disorders.
The comparison revealed that those with unknown causes of developmental disorders displayed a more static pattern of brain chemical changes. Children up to four years old that had ASD had similar brain chemical patterns as patient with epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and multiple sclerosis, underlying the importance of brain chemistry development.
The brain starts to develop in the womb of the mother; therefore, there are certain risk factors during pregnancy that can lead to a child being born with autism or increased chances of ASD. Pregnant women that have a fever for more than a week increases the possibility of having a child diagnosed with ASD by age three.
It was clarified by head researcher Hjordis Osk Atladottir, MD, PhD that mothers that experience persistent fever during pregnancy should not be alarmed as many continue on to have healthy babies. Based on data gathered from 1997 to 2003 on 96,746 children from Denmark, certain illnesses contributed to increasing the risk of children being diagnosed with ASD like in the case of:
More than a week of persistent fever during pregnancy triples autism risk for the child.
Pregnant mothers that get influenza double the risk of autism.
The risk of autism is slightly raised for mothers that use antibiotics during pregnancy.
At Focused Education, our team of speech therapists, occupational therapists and specialist teachers will work cohesively to offer your child the most client-centred service available. We will do our best to accommodate your child’s needs, but ultimately, help your child develop in any area he/she experiences difficulty in.
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