Autistic Spectrum Disorders and the Family Unit Term Paper

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Autistic Spectrum Disorders and the Family Unit

Autistic Spectrum Disorders are a group of related disorders or developmental disabilities that have been caused by some sort of problem within the brain. The necessity to understand the reasons for autism and the basic underlying pathophysiology has become more severe because the amount of diagnosed cases has increased dramatically in recent years. (White, 2003) Researchers and scientists have not been able to discover, as yet, what, exactly, causes this problem. The affected person may have his basic functioning affected by the Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and it may range form a mild affliction to a severe one. An autistic person may not look different from any of the others around him; the difference in fact is in the behavior and in the way in which he communicates, and interacts and behaves with the others around him. The Autistic Disorder is one of the most commonly known type of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and the others that come within this bracket are 'pervasive developmental disorder: not otherwise specified', or the PDD-NOS, and the Asperger Syndrome. (Learn the Signs, Act Early: Autism Spectrum Disorders Fact Sheet)

In several cases symptoms of autism would begin during periods of early infancy. But some children would develop autism till a significant deterioration is being observed. (Sandler; Finegold; Bolte; Buchanan; Maxwell; Vaisanen; Nelson; Wexler, 2000) People who are suffering from the many disorders associated with Autistic Spectrum Disorders may exhibit some or all of these symptoms: they will not play 'pretend' games, they will not point out any objects that have caught their interest, the person may not look at the object that another person is pointing at, because it does not interest him at all. The child will not like to be cuddled or touched, and may cuddle only in the few rare times when he wants to, not if others want to. In a phenomenon known as 'echolalia', the autistic child may endlessly and aimlessly repeat the words that have been said to him, and he may also keep on endlessly repeating all his actions over and over again. The autistic child would find it extremely difficult to adapt to changes and he may also display unusual reactions to the senses of smell, taste, and how things look and feel, and sound. (Learn the Signs, Act Early: Autism Spectrum Disorders Fact Sheet) Even though clinical patterns change on the basis of the severity, all children having autism show certain amount of qualitative impairment with regard to reciprocal social interaction, impairment of communication in qualitative terms and constricted, repeated and stereotype characteristics of behaviors, interests and activities. (Committee on Children with Disabilities, 2001)

The importance of this disease was understood only in the middle of the twentieth century though the disease affects as many as on in every five hundred children who are born. This causes a lot of disturbances in the families and miserable lives for the children. It was in 1943 that Dr. Leo Kanner of John Hopkins Hospital studied a group of 11 children and came out with the description of the disease as early infantile autism. At about the same time, a scientist in Germany, Dr. Hans Asperger found out about a milder version of the disease which is now called as Asperger syndrome. The parents are usually the first to notice certain unusual behaviors in their children, and in some children the differences start right from birth -- the child remains unresponsive to others and continue focusing on one item for long periods of time. The symptoms also suddenly appear in children who had been developing normally earlier. It can be the sudden change of an engaging, babbling toddler into a silent, withdrawn, self-abusive, and indifferent to social appeals. There is something seriously wrong and parents are the first to notice the problem correctly while they may not be aware of the reasons for the problem. (Autism Spectrum Disorders: Pervasive Developmental Disorders-

The defining characteristic of autism is due to a specific disability in the nature and quality relating to the development of social and communicative skills which are being impacted by the particular biological and environmental situations of the individual concerned. It is this disability which differentiates autism from other neurodevelopmental situations like mental retardation, disorders relating to developmental language and particular learning impairments. (Zager, 2005) Now let us look at the definition of autism from the Autism society of America. Autism is a severely affecting lifelong developmental disability that appears during the first three years of life. The occurrence is in approximately fifteen out of ten thousand births and is four times more likely in boys than girls. The disease has been found among all groups with different racial, ethnic and social backgrounds. It is commonly agreed by researchers that there are several causes for autism. The most prevailing symptom was diarrhea, which was found in 17% of the children. (Molloy; Manning-Courtney, 2003) Concern has been made regarding a possible link between measles-mumps-rubella or MMR vaccine and inflammatory bowel disease or IBD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, particularly autism with regression. Further enhanced requests for educational services in relation to ASD have raised concerns regarding possible rise in the prevalence of ASD. (Halsey; Hyman, 2001)

There are some well established causes for autism inclusive of a strong genetic link in matters of tuberous sclerosis, fragile X, and certain other disorders. The opinion that there is a very strong genetic base for the disorder evolves from the fact that children of autistic offspring have higher chances of autism in comparison to the general population. A very strong genetic relation has been significantly attained from studies of autistic children who were born as twins. (White, 2003) Researchers during the latter part of the 1960s and during the early 1970s were doubtful about any significant role in relation to genetic characteristics in the etiology of autism. An understanding that 2% rate of autism in siblings during that time was much high in comparison to the general population, and this showed a possible higher incidence of genetic liability, which brought about the first small-scale twin study relating to autism. The replicated proof in relation to twin and family studies which took place during the 1970s and 1980s showed that both strong elements of genetic influences and that they applied to a phenotype which was very much wider in comparison to the traditional diagnostic group of autism. Medical and chromosomal results also showed influences of genetic heterogeneity. (Rutter, 2000)

Further recent evidence points to the fact that autistic children might show important gastrointestinal symptoms. There is increasing understanding that primary gastrointestinal pathology would contribute to a significant role in the inception and clinical forms of childhood developmental disorders, including autism. (Wakefield; Puleston; Montgomery; Anthony; O'Leary; Murch, 2002) Even though constipation is found in 2% to 5% of children who are healthy, its clinical diagnosis is often problematic to make in cases of children having behavioral disorders. (Afzal; Murch; Thirrupathy; Berger; Fagbemi; Heuschkel, 2003)

Several brain abnormalities have been found in persons having autistic spectrum disorders, but commonalities have been problematic to establish throughout the clinical population. (Akshoomoff; Lord; Lincoln, 2004) Further there have been no studies which have conclusively proved autism to have been caused by psychological environments. The reason for the disease are physical disorders of the brain and the apparent changes induced are disturbances in the levels of physical, social and language skills; abnormal responses to sensations like sight, hearing, touch, pain, balance, smell, taste and the manner of carriage of body; speech and language may be absent or delayed in starting while the capacity to think may be present and abnormal methods of having relations with persons, objects and events. In terms of the disease itself, autism can be present alone or along with other disorders affecting the brain like viral infections, metabolic disturbances and epilepsy. One must be very clear in identifying the disease as wrong diagnosis may lead to wrong and ineffective treatment. When the disease reaches a severe form, the patient may be self-injurious, repetitive, highly unusual and with aggressive behavior. The best form of treatment has been found to be special educational programs with the use of behavioral methods. It should be remembered that autism is treatable and it is important to make early diagnosis and medical intervention. (Autism FAQ - Definition of Autism)

There are other diseases which give symptoms similar to autism, and there have been cases where brain injury has caused symptoms similar to autism. Another disease has been found to be deafness and this has caused some children to exhibit symptoms similar to autism. Thus the hearing capability of children has to be evaluated before blaming their behavior on autism. Another disease is called Galactosemia and this is an inborn defect in carbohydrate metabolism. There is also Heller's disease where the children show normal development till the age of 3 or 4 and then start getting fretfulness, negativism, anxiety, and regression of mental development and slow loss…

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