What is Autism?
Autism is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in the world. Characteristics include: impaired social interaction, difficulty in verbal and non-verbal communication, similar facial features for those who have the disorder, and repetitive behavior.
Behind what we see, this disorder affects information processing in the brain of its victims by altering the connection and organization of nerve cells and their synapses, although the occurrence is not yet fully understood.
Studies show that autism is inherited genetically, although it may not be evident in most of the hierarchical superiors of the victim. It is unclear whether it is brought about by rare genetic mutation or by rare combinations of genetic variants.
Controversies state that it may be caused by environmental factors, like intake of childhood vaccines, or exposure to heavy metals or pesticides; however scientific study has proven them wrong.
Statistics say that the prevalence of the disorder ranges about 1-2 per 1000 people worldwide, occurring 4-5 times more often in males than females. Parents notice the symptoms in their children during the first 2 years of the child’s life.
The symptoms are variable in development; some autistic children start to develop normally then regress later on. Usually, the symptoms are evident after the age of six months, then become more established by the age of two or three years, becoming worse by adulthood. It is distinguished commonly in a triad of symptoms, like impairments in communication and social interaction, and repetitive behavior.
In terms of social development, the signs are spotted early on during childhood. Autistic toddlers are less responsive to their own name, pay less or no attention to social stimuli, and don’t have the ability to use simple expressions to portray themselves, like pointing at things.
Children in the age range of three to five years old are less likely to show social understanding, are hesitant to approach others, and rarely or never imitate or respond to emotions.
Despite that scenario, they still form attachments to their primary caregivers. Older people who have the disease perform worse on face and emotion recognition tests.
Early diagnosis is key to alleviating the effects of the disorder. This, of course, requires that the parents of the child be able to notice their child’s unusual behavior as early as possible.
Some of those behaviors that need to be taken note of are: no babbling or gesturing by 12 months, no single words by 16 months, no two-word phrases by 24 months, and any loss of any language or social skills at any age.
For treating children with the disorder, screening is first done to identify which social aspects are found most difficult by the child to cope with. Upon identification, the child needs to go through the necessary programs to enhance his ability to cope up in that area. Special education is also implemented, along with medical care.
There is no cure. Children recover occasionally, occurring after intensive treatment, sometimes recovery doesn’t actually occur in some extent. Autistic children acquire language during age 5 at most cases. It is expected that they face lack of meaningful relationships, future employment opportunities, and self-determination.
The symptoms usually grow less severe with age, however core difficulties persist.