Mar 21, 2020
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What is Autism ? and What is Not ?

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What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong, neurobiological condition that significantly affects how a person perceives the world, interacts with other people, and communicates. Autism occurs in approximately 1 of every 500 individuals (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1997). Based upon this prevalence rate, it is estimated that there are over 3000 individuals with autism spectrum disorders in Middle Tennessee (1994 Census of Estimated Population in Tennessee).

There is no known single, specific cause of autism. In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities–which suggests there is a genetic basis to the disorder–although no single gene has been directly linked to autism. 

What Autism is Not:

Several outdated theories about the cause of autism have been proven to be false.

  • Autism is not a mental illness;

  • Autism is not the result of poor parenting;

  • Children with autism are not unruly or spoiled kids who just have a behavior problem;

  • The vast majority of persons with autism are not savants, like the character portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man;

  • Children with autism are not without feelings and emotions.

Furthermore, no known psychological factors in the development of the child have been shown to cause autism.

Is There More Than One Type of Autism?

Yes. there are five disorders that are grouped under the broad heading of “Pervasive Developmental Disorder” or PDD.

  • Autistic Disorder – impairments in social interaction communication, and imaginative play which are usually seen by the age of three;

  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) – commonly referred to as atypical autism, a diagnosis of PDD-NOS may be made when a child does not meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis, but there is severe and pervasive impairment in the areas of communication, social interaction, and behavior;

  • Asperger’s Disorder – characterized by impairments in social interactions and the presence of restricted interests and activities, with no significant delay in language and testing in the average to above-average range of intelligence;

  • Rett’s Disorder – a progressive disorder that occurs only in girls. A period of normal development is followed by a loss of previously acquired skills, loss of purposeful use of the hands replaced with repetitive hand movements beginning at the age of one to four years;

  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder – normal development for at least the first two years is followed by a significant loss of previously acquired skills.

Autism is a spectrum disorder. This means that the symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. Although autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors, children and adults can exhibit any combination of the behaviors in any degree of severity. 

What are People with AutismLike?

Some children with autism spectrum disorders demonstrate a delay early in life while others appear to develop typically until the age of 24-30 months, when parents may notice delays or regression in language, play, or social interaction.

The following areas are among those that may be affected by autism: 

  • Communication: Develops language slowly or not at all; uses words that may not be very meaningful or functional; communicates with gestures or behaviors instead of words; displays short interactive attention span.

  • Social Interaction: Spends time alone rather than with others; shows little interest in making friends; shows limited understanding and responsiveness to social cues such as eye contact or smiles;

  • Sensory Impairment: Maybe hypersensitive or hypersensitive to sights, sounds, touch, smells, and tastes;

  • Play: Lacks spontaneous or imaginative play; does not imitate others’ actions; does not initiate pretend games; may prefer to use toys in odd ways such as lining them up or spinning the wheels on toy cars;

  • Behaviors: Maybe overactive or very passive; throws tantrums for no apparent reason; perseverates (shows an obsessive interest in a single item, idea activity, or person); lacks common sense; may show aggression to others or self; often has difficulty with changes in routine.

Autism Checklist

Individuals with autism usually exhibit at least half of the traits listed below. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and vary in intensity from symptom to symptom. In addition, the behavior usually occurs across many different situations and is consistently inappropriate for their age.

  • Insistence on sameness; resists changes in routine

  • Severe language deficits

  • Difficulty in expressing needs; uses gestures or pointing instead of words

  • Echolalia (repeating words or phrases in place of normal, responsive language)

  • Laughing, crying, or showing distress for reasons not apparent to others

  • Prefers to be alone; aloof manner

  • Tantrums – displays extreme distress for no apparent reason

  • Difficulty in mixing with other children

  • May not want to cuddle or act cuddly

  • Little or no eye contact

  • Unresponsive to normal teaching methods

  • Sustained odd play

  • Spins objects or self

  • Inappropriate attachment to objects

  • Apparent oversensitivity or under sensitivity to pain

  • No real fear of dangers

  • Noticeable physical overactivity or extreme under-activity

  • Not responsive to verbal cues; acts as if deaf although hearing tests in a normal range

  • Uneven gross/fine motor skills. (May not kick a ball but can stack blocks.)

If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it may be an indication that additional developmental testing is needed. Please don’t delay–early intervention is the key to a child’s successful development!

What is Autism? Autism is a lifelong, neurobiological condition that significantly affects how a person perceives the world, interacts with other people, and communicates. Autism occurs in approximately 1 of every 500 individuals (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1997). Based upon this prevalence rate, it is estimated that there are over 3000 individuals with autism spectrum disorders in Middle Tennessee (1994 Census of Estimated Population in Tennessee). There is no known single, specific cause of autism. In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities--which suggests there is a genetic basis to the disorder--although no single gene has been directly linked to autism.  What Autism is Not: Several outdated theories about the cause of autism have been proven to be false. Autism is not a mental illness; Autism is not the result of poor parenting; Children with autism are not unruly or spoiled kids who just have a behavior problem; The vast majority of persons with autism are not savants, like the character portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man; Children with autism are not without feelings and emotions. Furthermore, no known psychological factors in the development of the child have been shown to cause autism. Is There More Than One Type of Autism? Yes. there are five disorders that are grouped under the broad heading of "Pervasive Developmental Disorder" or PDD. Autistic Disorder - impairments in social interaction communication, and imaginative play which are usually seen by the age of three; Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) - commonly referred to as atypical autism, a diagnosis of PDD-NOS may be made when a child does not meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis, but there is severe and pervasive impairment in the areas of communication, social interaction, and behavior; Asperger's Disorder - characterized by impairments in social interactions and the presence of restricted interests and activities, with no significant delay in language and testing in the average to above-average range of intelligence; Rett's Disorder - a progressive disorder that occurs only in girls. A period of normal development is followed by a loss of previously acquired skills, loss of purposeful use of the hands replaced with repetitive hand movements beginning at the age of one to four years; Childhood Disintegrative Disorder - normal development for at least the first two years is followed by a significant loss of previously acquired skills. Autism is a spectrum disorder. This means that the symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. Although autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors, children and adults can exhibit any combination of the behaviors in any degree of severity.  What are People with AutismLike? Some children with autism spectrum disorders demonstrate a delay early in life while others appear to develop typically until the age of 24-30 months, when parents may notice delays or regression in language, play, or social interaction. The following areas are among those…

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