Autism a Communication and Social Disorder
Autism is a brain disorder that is characterized by impaired social interaction and delayed communication skills. (Segal, 1996) Children with Autism show signs of delay in the first two years of life. Many times parents notice that their child demonstrates repetitive behaviors, or likes to spin objects, line things up or has an affinity for sameness. Some children with Autism have difficulty with transitions from one activity to another and are not able to regulate their senses. The range of these behaviors varies and that is why Autism is called a spectrum disorder. Many times, children will exhibit one or several of the symptoms. Children who exhibit fewer symptoms are diagnosed with PDD or Pervasive Developmental Delay, while children who have many of the symptoms are termed Autistic.
There is recent research that shows that autism may be caused by genetics which are related to how the brain develops in early childhood. In the article, Autism and Brain development, Nancy Shute reports that some kind of mutations of genes that are important to language development may be the cause of autism in some children. “Daniel Geschwind is researching the fact that these genes are sometimes turned on or off depending on the brains experiences.” (Shute). There is also a chance that “structural damage will be found, and this damage could be anything from microscopic to the grossly visible, from faults inside nerve cells to faulty development of whole cell systems.” (Frith) The causes of Autism are still being explored, but the more important thing is how people are diagnosed and treated for it. The symptoms of Autism are variable, and usually different in each child. Delay of language development, lack of social skills and lack of eye contact are a few of the symptoms. Because there is a range in the severity of the symptoms the diagnosis and treatment of autism varies and is an interesting process. The diagnosis of autism is based on a behavioral check list. “Because a diagnosis is a label or shorthand for treatment, it needs to correspond to the services to the child needs in the immediate future.” (Siegel) The parents, teachers, developmental pediatrician and sometimes other therapists all contribute to the assessment. The CHAT, Checklist of Autism in Toddlers is one way that pediatricians screen children under 2 years old for Autism. For children 4 years and older, a Social Communication Questionnaire is often used. These screenings rely on parent report and the observation of a diagnostic team. Then the child will be referred to a developmental pediatrician or a psychologist who is trained in diagnosis of Autism.
There are several diagnostic tools, usually developmental checklists, and parent report along with a team of professionals who look at the behavioral symptoms that are characteristic of this disorder. The team of professionals who diagnosis autism typically include the parent, speech therapist, teacher, pediatrician and occupational therapist. The most widely used diagnostic tool for Autism is the ADOS, (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule). The North Bay Regional Center uses this to diagnose children with autism in this area. There are also other centers, the Mind Institute with is part of the University of Davis medical Center, where they focus only on diagnosis of Autism spectrum disorders. Bryna Siegel is a Psychologist who works at UCSF and has her own diagnostic clinic. Each case of autism has its own individual characteristics ranging between its cause, its diagnosis and the life long treatment. After being diagnosed, different therapy options are presented; PECS, play therapy and discrete trial are the three more commonly used treatments. What is best for children with Autism is an early diagnosis, and intensive speech and language therapy which includes the family. Dr....
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