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autism disorder. The writer explores what it is and how it manifests itself. The writer also discusses the teaching methods that have been used to allow the autistic student to take part in a public education. There were ten sources used to complete this paper.

Each year millions of American couples add to their family with the birth of a baby. The pregnancy is spent getting ready for the newcomer. Names are chosen, baby items are purchased and stored and other people's children are discussed as examples of what might be produced by this child. The family becomes ready as they read up on the milestones that they can expect the baby to make at various times of the first few years of development.

By the time the baby is born the parents have studied the progress that can be expected and are ready to start their life as a larger family. As the baby begins to grow and develop it is natural to compare the milestones and skills learned to other children. When the baby begins to walk and to talk he or she may even reach the milestones at the expected ages and progress with an acceptable rate. The problem with autism is the false sense of security that parents can get when their baby spends the first 12 months doing everything that their peers are doing. Sometime between 16-18 months many parents begin to notice that their child not only stops progressing, but often times they seem to begin regressing in their progress. There may be other children in the family that the parents use as a measure or there may be children in the social circle that the parents travel in. Regardless of how the measurements are made and against whom it is a natural reaction of parents to compare their child's developmental steps to those who have gone before them.

Parents are often told that every child develops at his or her own rate which is for the most part true. One may walk at eight months while another one does not take first steps until several months after their first birthday. Some babies begin to speak full sentences by one, while their counterparts choose to remain silent until they are almost two.

Each child develops at the rate that is comfortable and correct for them while those around them develop at their own rates. It is this diversity in developmental rates that cause the disorder called autism to be so questioned in the beginning stages of development. Parents are not sure when they should worry about the seeming developmental delays they see in their child. The child who seemed to be moving right along the developmental time line suddenly stops and seems to withdraw, leaving the parents concerned and nervous about whether or not this is considered normal development.

In the beginning they may talk to family members and friends. If the problems persist they may cautiously bring it up to their pediatrician who at first may tell them there is nothing to be concerned about, but eventually there will be no denying that something is wrong and the roller coaster of testing begins. A diagnosis of autism knocks the world out from under parents who have suspected a problem for a while but were not sure what it was. A diagnosis of autism forever alters the family by way of expectations, goals, future and present plans that they may have had. While it is a shocking and scary diagnosis at first, the advances made in recent years regarding autism provide a much more positive future for those who have it than ever before.


Before one can begin to understand the ramifications and treatment options of autism it is important that one first have an understanding of the disorder itself. For many years it was suggested that autism was caused by the refusal of a mother to bond with her baby. For generations mothers of autistic children were made to feel that they had been so cold that they had permanently damaged their baby. It was a guilt trip of the highest magnitude and one that threatened the confidence of every parent with an autistic child.

In more recent years however studies have concluded autism is a neurologically-based disorder that has nothing to do with the mother's affection and love of her baby.

Most of the research has focused on specific brain structures and dysfunctions and their relation to autism. Specific underlying mechanisms of autistic behavior are unknown (Murray, 1996). No definitive explanation of autistic disorders or uniformly effective treatment has been developed; however, psychophysiological research in the last two decades, reviewed here, has provided new and important clues to the etiologies and mechanisms of autistic disorders and raised hopes for effective treatment or cure (Minshew, 1991; Nelson, 1991; Piven et al., 1991) (Murray, 1996)."


Autism, 4 years old girl. Demonstrates hypoperfusion in areas 9 and 10 in the frontal lobes, while there is increased perfusion in areas 8 and upper 9. Area 38 in temporal lobes is hypoperfused and also both occipital lobes. Importantly in this case there is bilateral increase of function in both anterior cyngulate gyri, area 24 of Brodmann (this is related to ADD).

The above figure shows that medical science has been able to pinpoint proof that autism is a neurological disorder and not one caused by parenting techniques.

Autism was first recognized in 1943. At that time children who had autism were often diagnosed as being schizophrenic and treated as schizophrenics. In 1943 however, a Dr. Kanner discovered the differences between the two disorders and formally separated them from each other into two categories (Murray, 1996). Advances in the medical community has allowed technology to pinpoint the neurological underpinnings that are involved with the disorder. Many studies have gauged the parents' education levels, occupations, methods of nurturing and other factors in several different countries and concluded that it has no bearing on which children develop autism and which children do not (Murray, 1996).


While there are several traits of the disorder that can manifest itself in many different ways there is a core group of symptoms present in most autistic children. The four common traits that are found in children with autism include social isolation, cognitive deficits, ritualistic motor activities and language deficits.

Social Isolation

When the term autism was coined it meant or suggested the same thing as being self absorbed. This is because children with autism lack the ability to respond to humans around them. This symptom is often manifested by the autistic child's refusal to have any type of eye contact with others, and they do not respond to verbal directives or suggestions. This inability to react to humans is one of the classic symptoms of the disorder (Murray, 1996).

Conversely autistic children often get inappropriately attached to inanimate objects such as brooms, lamps and vacuum cleaners. The attachments are often obsessive in nature and the removal of the item from the presence of the autistic child can cause an escalation in frustration that leads to out of control behavior (Murray, 1996).

When an autistic child is pressed to interact with humans and is not ready to do so or when the inanimate objects they are attached to are removed the child can through temper tantrums and uncontrollable crying jags are not unusual. Another issue when it comes to social interaction and autistic children is the difficulty of autistic children in interpreting emotions of others and reacting correctly to social cues that others put out. Most people begin to understand social cues at a very young age. They pick up the cues through gestures, or body language of those around them (Murray, 1996).

The autistic child has no ability to read those cues or respond to them correctly which causes them problems in groups and with others. This inability to react properly to social cues leads to an inability to have intimate relationships as adults as well.

Cognitive Deficits

The majority of autistic children are also mentally retarded according to the statistics. A recent study conducted at the University of Utah tested and measured the IQ's of 241 autistic children. When the tests were complete there was a full 66% who scored below 70 points on the IQ tests. Another study in Sweden tested over 100,000 autistic individuals and in that study more than 75% of them were mentally retarded.

In Spiker and Ricks's (1984) study, about one quarter of the 52 autistic children, 3 to 12 years old, failed to recognize themselves in a mirror self- recognition test (Murray, 1996)."

While many autistic children are mentally retarded there are also many who are not. The chart below shows the distribution of the mental abilities of those who have autism during a 1997 and 1998 study.

Figure 6 - Mental…[continue]

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