Autism spectrum disorders

November 12, 2012

Autism spectrum disorders

Autism is a complicated condition which is often misunderstood by the wider population. It is a disability of development causing difficulties for the sufferer with both communication and socialisation. Generally speaking autism will begin to manifest itself before the age of 3 – more often in boys and those who have siblings with the condition – in fact twin studies have shown that there is most likely a high genetic component to the development of autism. Autism can cause difficulties in many skills areas which may be ongoing into adulthood. Because of the wide variety of symptoms associated with autism medical practitioners have begun to refer to autism spectrum disorders rather than simply ‘autism’. This label will include -

  • Classic autism which represents the extreme end of the spectrum and often presents with severe difficulties.

  • Aspergers

  • Atypical autism

Generally speaking however both the term ‘autism’ and ‘autism spectrum disorders’ are interchangeable.

Because autism spectrum disorders are associated with development and behaviour of children it may mean that diagnosis is delayed as possible symptoms of the condition are missed. However there are a number of so-called ‘red flags’ which, if noted – usually before the age of 18 months – should be brought to the attention of your medical practitioner. These may include -

  • Difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication – avoidance of eye contact is almost a classic symptom of autism spectrum disorders.

  • Lack of empathy and understanding with and for others.

  • Repetitive or obsessive behaviours.

  • Inability to join in or hold a conversation.

Currently there is no known cause of autism spectrum disorders – links with vaccines have been totally discounted after thorough research and investigation. There is no scientific proof that vaccines or the contents of any vaccines contribute to the development of any autism spectrum disorders. There is also, currently, no cure or single treatment for autism. There are simply ways to try and manage the symptoms and facilitate learning for the sufferer. Because there is no known single medical cause of autism it is unlikely that there will be a single test or treatment developed in the near future.

Therapy

  • The use of behaviour management therapy is a method which focuses on reinforcing desired behavioural patterns in order to reduce the undesirable ones.

  • Speech therapy may improve an autistic child’s ability to both communicate and interact with those around him or her.

  • Occupational therapy is a useful way of helping patients succeed at tasks which they are able to carry out.

  • Physical therapy will help to improve balance, posture and build motor control.

Education

  • The development of an Individualised Education Plan with the help of all the concerned professionals plus the parents should be useful in guiding school experiences for an autistic child within the public school system.

Medication

  • There are currently no recognised drug treatments which are specific to autism spectrum disorders.

  • Certain drugs may be prescribed in order to alleviate the symptoms which present this may include – SSRIs, anti-psychotic drugs, anti-anxiety drugs, or certain stimulants.

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