Essay, Research Paper: Autism


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Autism is a disorder that impairs the development of a person's capacity to
interact with, communicate with, and also maintain regular "normal"
bonds with the outside world. This disorder was described in 1943 by Leo Kanner,
an American psychologist. Autism is considered one of the more common
developmental disabilities, and appears before the age of three. It is known to
be four or five times more common in males than in females. It most cited
statistic is that autism occurs in 4.5 out of 10,000 live births. The estimate
of children having autistic qualities is reported to be 15 to 20 out of 10,000.
The gender statement noted before is not uncommon, since many developmental
disabilities have a greater male to female ratio. Autistic characteristics are
different from birth. Two more common characteristics that may be exhibited are
the arching of the back while being held, to avoid contact, and also failing to
anticipate being picked up (limpness in the body). Infants with autism are
described as being either very passive, or very agitated. Sometimes during
infancy there will be cases of head rocking, and or banging, against the crib,
but this is not always the case. Approximately one-third of children develop
normally until the ages of 1 1/2 to 3, and then the symptoms emerge, referred to
as "regressive autism." During childhood, there is a commonality of
the affected child insisting routine. The reasoning is that the child is not
able to cope with "novel" situations. Wearing the same clothes, or
eating the same foods during meals, are examples. Tantrums can occur when these
perseverative behaviors occur. Twenty years ago, most autistic individuals were
institutionalized. Now only the most severe cases live in institutions. During
adulthood, autistic individuals are known to live with their parents, in
residential institutions, and some do live independently. Because there are so
many forms of this disorder, it has been said that there is no true adjective to
describe every type of person with autistic symptoms, or autism. My research
shows that there are no physiological tests that can be performed to determine
whether a person has autism. The diagnosis is given when a person exhibits the
characteristics of the disorder. Note: In the last five years, researchers have
agreed that those who display autistic characteristics are commonly suffering
from other related but distinct disorders, such as Asperger Syndrome, Fragile X
syndrome, Landau Kleffner syndrome, Rett syndrome, and Williams syndrome.
Physiological researchers have discovered abnormalities within the brain, but
the reason for the abnormalities is not known, and it is not known where the
relation to autism lies. These abnormalities range from underdeveloped areas in
the limbic system, to Vernal lobules VI and VII, being smaller than average.
Biochemical research has found elevated beta-endorphins, relating to pain
tolerance in autistic action. In the cognitive realm, there is much talk of the
"theory of mind", or the inability to realize that other people have
their own unique view of the world. Some Cognitive theorists think that the
autistic person isn't able to understand that other people have different
thoughts, plans, and perspectives than their own. Cognitive theorists also
examine the 10% statistic of savant skills, an ability that is considered
remarkable by most standards. These savant skills are usually spatial in nature.
Interventions and therapies are difficult. Family theorists try to work with the
family of the patient, to try to develop appropriate behaviors. There is no
reported drug that can be considered primary for the patient, although Ritalin
is dispensed in many cases. Behaviorists look at the changing of behavior
through positive reinforcement, behavior recess, and in turn examine the
self-stimulatory and self-injurious behaviors. Physiological work such as visual
training, and auditory integration training, is used to reduce sensitivities to
sounds above normal range, or to sounds the patient can consider painful. When
it comes to autism, the most important thing to remember is that parents and
doctors in the medical field are now realizing that there can be treatments, and
interventions, that can be effective. In addition, note that Federal Law now
requires the states to provide early intervention services for autistic children
between the ages of one to three. The services exist to provide tools to develop
the children academically, and socially.
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