If you or someone you know has been affected by Autism, you know how difficult it can be. But also know there is help available and a wealth of information out there to help make living with Autism more fulfilling. Autism falls under the "Pervasive Developmental Disorders", or PDD (more on this later) is not that uncommon - it is estimated that nearly 1 in 150 births result in some form of Autism. According the the U.S. Department of Education, this number is on the rise. Autism is around 4 times more likely to occur in boys than girls.
DEFINITION OF AUTISM
Autism is defined by the Autism Society Of America (ASA) as: "Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.
Autism is one of five disorders that falls under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), a category of neurological disorders characterized by “severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development."
CHARACTERISTICS OF AUTISM
Most signs or characteristics of Autism are evident in the areas of speech or communication (verbal and non-verbal).
Many of the signs or symptoms of Autism begin presenting themselves between 2 and 6 years of age.
The research indicates the following symptoms are the most commonly found characteristics of Autism:
The child is unable to coo by 12 months.
The child also does not point or gesture by 12 months.
The child does not say single words by 16 months.
The child does not say 2 or more words by 24 months.
Has lost some of social skills or language abilities.
Other Characteristics include:
No fear of danger.
Over or under sensitivity to pain.
May avoid eye contact with you.
May prefer to be by him/herself.
Has difficulty expressing what they want or need - may then try to use gestures.
May echo words or phrases.
May have inappropriate attachments to objects.
May spin his/herself or objects.
Prolonged repetitive play.
May insist on things/routines always being the same.
May exhibit inappropriate laughing (laughing when not appropriate to the situation).
May display tantrums for no apparent reason.
May avoid cuddling.
May exhibit self injurious behavior when upset i.e. biting selves or banging heads.
An overall difficulty interacting with others.
If you see the above symptoms, you should consult with your doctor and a Psychologist before drawing your own conclusions. An important note here - I stress that it's also important to see a Psychologist, or a Speech Therapist, and not just take the word of your doctor or PCP. Although medical doctors are very well trained, a Psychologist and/or Speech Pathologist have specific training in Autism and other Developmental disorders and may have a better understanding of Autism and how to treat it. However, having said that - it's best to START by seeing your doctor to rule out any other medical conditions and to get their clinical opinion initially.
For many treatment programs, it is a collective effort of many different professional disciplines ie. medical doctor, psychologist, occupational therapist, Counselor - all with specific training with Autism. Again - check with your doctor about all of your options.