Of all of the childhood psychological disorders, Autism is perhaps the most overwhelming. Its sufferers are both the children afflicted with social impairment and the parents who struggle everyday to support them. Autism deprives its sufferers of the capability of having significant relationships and communication with other individuals, it causes them to become withdrawn and cancel any human contact. Perhaps the most overlooked part of this disease is the pain and guilt that it causes parents who often find it hard to love a child with no emotions, with little human traits. While the past 30 years have brought some progress towards the diagnosis of Autism, it seems that this disorder is so complex and volatile that it is very difficult to treat.
Autism is a disorder with a clear genetic origin. Studies have revealed that both single gene mutations and multi gene interactions are responsible for the condition. Twin studies from the early seventies illustrated that if one identical twin has Autism, the other sibling is 90% likely to also have it as well (Gray, 970). This offers immense backing for the genetic hypothesis. However there has also been evidence that non genetic reasons can be to blame for Autism. Prenatal viral infections including Rubella have been confirmed to be harmful to the fetus brain and at times responsible for Autism (Gray, 970). Women who are exposed to pesticides during pregnancy are eight times more likely to have a child with Autism (Gray, 972). No matter what the cause is Autism is a disorder that weakens the growth of a child’s brain and causes noticeable social problem.
Indicators of Autism start very early with 80 percent of autistic children displaying abnormalities before the age of 18 months. The occurrence in America is 6 per 1000 births and it affects boys four times as often as girls. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there are several red flags for Autism. These include no babbling or gesturing by 12 months of age, no single words by 16 months, and no two word phrases by the age of 24 months (Gray, 972). As children get older, and even grow into adulthood other more established symptoms become noticeable. Perhaps the universal trait of Autism is a fixation with repetitive, patterned things (Gray, 973). Autistic toddlers can be observed doing the same thing for hours in complete silence (Gray, 973). Young Autistic children are much less likely to respond to stimuli including their names (Gray, 974). They rarely show eye contact and are more likely to play with another person’s hand (Gray, 975). Around the age of five, children are less likely to come up to others and play with peers, and show a complete indifference to social norms. As they reach adolescence autistic children are very likely to have few friendships, become depressed from loneliness and suffer from occasional but profound temper tantrums (Gray, 975).
Autism is a complex disorder with an incredible range of different manifestations. Around 30 percent of autistic individuals are mentally retarded with an IQ below 50. These obviously have the poorest outcomes as adults. Mentally retarded autistics may never develop language or even the concept of social connection. They are inclined to live in institutions and some cannot even feed themselves or use the bathroom without assistance. On the other hand, Autistics with IQ’s ranging from 70 to 90 have a 60 percent chance of living independently and can work on simple jobs. An interesting finding is that autistics with higher IQ’s can often posses above average language skills and be mistaken by others to be highly intelligent. Yet they lack the ability to understand the feelings and intentions of other people, making them socially awkward and incapable of forming lasting relationships.
On the extremes of the spectrum are the highly intelligent autistics, which clearly show the complexities of the human brain. Also known as Asperger Syndrome, this form of the disease makes up for social inadequacy by often giving people highly superior perception and memory. Highly intelligent autistics often can be incredible painters, musicians, and mathematicians, while lacking the most basic social skills. The most extreme version of this is savant syndrome, where autistic individuals possess super human abilities. Kim Peek, a savant made famous by the movie Rainman, has the ability to remember a 900 page book word for word, while being incapable of carrying the most simplest of conversations.
It is almost impossible to create a universal treatment for Autism because its effects are so different in every individual. Intensive treatments and behavior therapies are often applied from an early age, in attempt to lessen the profoundness of the disorder. These treatments try to teach social skills and promote communication in autistic children. Early intervention has shown to have some positive results, but even supporters have admitted that great improvement is highly unlikely. Observation has shown that autism can worsen or improve with age completely on its own. More than half of autistic children are prescribed psychoactive drugs including anti-depressants and stimulants to help control their symptoms. Either than this, little else can be done to help autistic individuals. Because autism is a problem in the way the brain innately works, rather than being a problem of neurotransmitters like other disorders, treatment options are so limited. It is unfortunate that will all of our advances in modern medicine, we still have so little options against the curse of Autism.
A few strengths of the article are that it gives a great deal of information of what Autism is as well as how Autism has been viewed. It also gives a look into how having a child with Autism can affect the parents as well as the child. The author gives insight into the Autism spectrum. Interacting with individuals with Autism can be stressful for anyone is not only an adjustment for the community and the parents but the individual also. I did not really find any weaknesses in the article to critique.
In the amount of time I have been working my internship with the population of developmentally disabled individuals, I have found that a vast majority have Autism Spectrum Disorders. I sit in amazement as I watch how they interact with each other and the staff. It is truly an adjustment for the families leaving their loved ones in the hands of strangers per se, but it is also an adjustment for many of individuals with Autism being away from their families and familiar surroundings.