What Is Autism

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Autism is the most common of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and affects 1 in every 110 children, most of which are males (Davis, 2010). Other ASDs include Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and Rett Syndrome. Autism is the result of a neurological disorder that attacks normal brain function, affecting development of communication and social interaction skills. The roots of autism can be detected in the early stages of brain development. However, the most obvious signs and symptoms of the disorder tend to manifest themselves between the ages of two and three (Anonymous, 2002). Experts also consider autism a wide-spectrum disorder, hence the broad descriptor of Autism Spectrum Disorder. No two people with autism will have the exact same signs and/or symptoms and those that live with autism display a plethora of characteristics and behaviors. Socially, people with autism have impaired use of verbal and non-verbal behaviors, delayed peer interactions, few or no friendships, and have an absence of seeking to share enjoyment and interests (Levy, Mandell, and Schultz, 2009). Autism may also cause people to suffer with speech and language impairments. The behaviors that may be apparent include difficulty communicating verbally and nonverbally, difficulty comprehending what others are saying, and showing mild cases of echolalia. Other common behaviors that people with autism exhibit include showing interest in only a few specific objects, needing strict consistency, not receptive of change, and they may have repetitive movements. Some repetitive behaviors may include stereotypy, compulsivity, sameness, and ritualistic behaviors. Stereotypy includes repetitive movement such as hand flapping, making sounds, head rolling, and body rocking. Compulsive behaviors are those that are intended to follow specific rules and patterns that are difficult to control. Autism was first identified and labeled by Leo Kanner in 1943 (Davis, 2010). Since its discovery nearly 60 years ago, autism has been puzzling, fascinating, and internationally researched. Two international Journals have emerged with autism as the focus; The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, formerly The Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, and Autism: the International Journal of Research and Practice (Wolff, 2004). Other Journals dedicated to autism include: Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities, The International Autism Research Review. Surprisingly in the emerging days of autism, there were few early accounts of ASD’s in children. However, there was only one report of autism without associated brain damage, mental retardation, possible language disorder, or severe social problems. In the 1940’s and ‘50’s, the label Childhood Schizophrenia emerged as disorder and was associated very closely with autism (Wolff, 2004). Prior to the late 1990’s, autism was considered a rare disorder. The incidence at the time was approximately two to four in every 10,000 children. In contrast, a dramatic swell has been reported with a 57% increase from 2002-2006 (Davis, 2010). Many factors allude to this increase in prevalence. A change in diagnostic criteria, public awareness, improved screening and diagnostic services, the development of specialized services, as well as an overall increase of the disorder posited. (Davis, 2010). With the passing of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1990, autism was named a category of special education (Dekeyzer, 2009).

In an article published in the Journal of Practical Nursing, the author states: Autism varies widely in its severity and symptoms, and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when it is masked by more debilitating handicaps. Doctors rely on a core group of behaviors to alert them to the possibility of a diagnosis of autism. These behaviors are: impaired ability to make friends with peers, impaired ability to...
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