Autism Spectrum Disorders
What is Autism?
Although most are familiar with the term, few know the indicators and true definition of autism. The most common condition in a groups of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), autism is often defined by the behaviors of the patient. These include problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, unusual, repetitive, or severely limited interests, and limited and impaired social interaction. Other ASDs include Rett syndrome, Asperger syndrome and other developmental disorders.
Autism is found more in males by a ratio of approximately four to one and the latest studies estimate that three to five children out of every 1,000 will carry the disorder.
The symptoms of autism
As far as recognizing the symptoms of autism, the behaviors mentioned above (social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors, undefined or exaggerated interests and problems interacting with others) are almost always present. These behaviors can range from subtle to disabling.
The most noticeable and obvious behavior is the patient’s inability to interact with others. For many, this social impairment appears when they are an infant and continues throughout life in varying degrees. It’s this inability to connect with others in a social situation that perhaps present the biggest challenge.
Autistic children are often unresponsive to (or they avoid) normal interactions with other such as responding to their name, and the inability recognizing facial expressions (sadness, joy, concern, etc.) and emotional states in others. This makes them seem to have a lack of empathy or understanding or the need to be held or embraced.
In the more extreme cases, children with autism will engage in rocking or twirling and many display signs of self abuse such as head banging and biting. Just as troubling is the fact that autistic children are more likely to develop other conditions such as epileptic seizures, Tourett’s syndrome and ADD.
Since autism is found in various degrees, diagnosis can be difficult. The impaired social behaviors mentioned above are key indicators along with the inability to follow daily routines. Doctors will often ask parents to observe and document their child’s various behaviors and questionnaires are often used to aid in diagnosis. At times, a team of professionals including a neurologist, psychiatrist and speech therapist are called upon either to confirm or rule out the condition.
Most researchers agree that genetics play a role in causing the disorder along with environmental conditions (parental practices are now ruled out as a contributing factor). Autistic children often have brain development disorders although the exact indicators are not clear. Families with an autistic child have a 5% chance of having another child with the condition.
Symptoms of autism can change
Fortunately, some children’s struggles with autism grow less and less as they age and they can lead relatively normal lives (although autistic adolescents and young adults can struggle with depression and the ability to make it on their own. Others, especially those with poor language skills early on, regress and become more problematic.
Treating autism with drugs is questionable
The antidepressant citalopram (brand name Celexa) is sometimes prescribed for treating autism as it is thought to help reduce unwanted brain activity. It is not approved by the FDA however and many physicians believe it does nothing to treat the condition or improve the patient’s symptom. More research is needed to find a drug regimen that truly helps those with autism.
If you would like to have more information or to set up a consultation and see how we can help you (or someone you know) with autism or ASD, give us a call (813)254-5200 Tampa to schedule an appointment.