What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Previously Called Autism And Pervasive Developmental Disorders
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by the following:
- Difficulties in social communication differences, including verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Deficits in social interactions.
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities and sensory problems
Many of those with ASD can have delayed or absence of language development, intellectual disabilities, poor motor coordination and attention weaknesses.
High Levels Of Fetal Testosterone
It has long been noted that the prevalence of Autism seems to be stronger in boys than in girls. It does not mean that girls are excluded from Autism, but instead that higher numbers of boys are diagnosed than girls. Science has indeed confirmed that the trait is male-typical, although not exclusive. The study says that high levels of testosterone in the amniotic fluid may be related to certain variables of brain function, like cognition and behavior. The information was compiled from routine amniocentesis. These findings confirm a previous hypothesis that Autism could be related to the male sex hormone. The theory states that children with extreme male brain, babies exposed to too much testosterone, show a reduced capacity to empathize and a stronger urge to systemize. Researchers say that this test was too small to be conclusive and that a much larger study is necessary to confirm the link between over productions of testosterone in the amniotic fluid and Autism.
How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosed
There are no laboratory tests to determine ASD. However, certain healthcare providers receive specific training and can do screenings and evaluations if needed and who might ask parents or teachers to record observations. These providers might include specialized physicians, psychologists and speech-language pathologists.
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How To Begin A Diagnosis Process
Adults who suspect they or a loved one might be autistic can do a self-assessment test for adults. A person can find these tests online. While they cannot give a diagnosis, the tests are a good starting point.
A person seeking a diagnosis can take the results of such a test to a primary care doctor who will try to determine whether ASD may be present by:
- enquiring about the symptoms, both current and during childhood
- observing and interacting with the person
- speaking to a loved one
- checking for other physical or mental health conditions that may be causing symptoms
If no underlying physical condition can explain the symptoms, the doctor may refer the person to a psychiatrist or a psychologist to make an ASD diagnosis.
If symptoms are not present in childhood but begin in adolescence or adulthood, this may indicate a cognitive or mental health condition other than ASD.
It may be difficult to find a specialist who can diagnose ASD in adults. Individuals who would like a diagnosis for themselves or a loved one may need to do research to find a provider with experience diagnosing autistic adults.
Another option is to speak to a developmental pediatrician or child psychiatrist who is willing to see adult clients.
Brain Development And Autism
The brain develops differently in autistic children compared with typically developing children.
In young children, the brain is developing all the time. Every time a child does something or responds to something, connections in the brain are reinforced and become stronger.
Over time, the connections that arent reinforced disappear theyre pruned away as theyre not needed. This pruning is how the brain makes room for important connections those needed for everyday actions and responses, like walking, talking or understanding emotions.
In autistic children, the brain tends to grow faster than average during early childhood, especially during the first three years of life. The brains of autistic babies appear to have more cells than they need, as well as poor connections between the cells.
Also, pruning doesnt seem to happen as much in autistic children. This means that information might be lost or sent through the wrong connections. The lack of pruning might also explain why the brain seems to be growing faster in autistic children than in typically developing children.
Its not yet clear what causes this difference in brain development.
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April 4, 2012 Joslyn Gray, 38, of Drexel Hill, Pa., resisted her pediatricians recommendation that she have her 4-year-old son tested for autism. She didnt think he fit the classic description of autism.
He showed emotion. He showed affection toward her. That wouldnt be possible for someone with autism, Gray believed.
I didnt understand what autism was and the vast spectrum of the disorder, said Gray, who blogs for Babble.com, a Disney-owned online parenting magazine . I got him evaluated because I didnt want to be seen as a mom in denial.
Grays son was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome a higher functioning form of autism at age 4. In hindsight, Gray said she could see how his symptoms progressed until his diagnosis, and his diagnosis prompted her to have her daughter tested too. Two years later, in January 2012, her daughter, now 10 years old, received the same diagnosis as her brother.
The latest statistics released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that autism spectrum disorder increased by 23 percent from 2006 to 2008 to include nearly one in 88 children.
Experts said the growing numbers reflect an all-encompassing disorder that just as often includes children who speak or dont speak, make eye or dont make eye contact, recognize their names or not.
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Vaccine Ingredients Do Not Cause Autism
- One vaccine ingredient that has been studied specifically is thimerosal. Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative used to prevent germs from contaminating multidose vials of vaccines. Research shows that thimerosal does not cause ASD. In fact, a 2004 scientific review by the IOM concluded that the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosalcontaining vaccines and autism.Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism external icon
Since 2003, there have been nine CDC-funded or conducted studies that have found no link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and ASD. These studies also found no link between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and ASD in children. Learn more about the CDC Studies on Thimerosal in Vaccines pdf icon.
Even before studies showed that thimerosal was not harmful, there was a national effort to reduce all types of mercury exposures in children. As precaution, thimerosal was removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines between 1999 and 2001. Currently, the only type of vaccine that contain thimerosal are flu vaccines packaged in multidose vials. There are thimerosal-free alternatives available for flu vaccine. For more information, see the Timeline for Thimerosal in Vaccines.
Besides thimerosal, some people have had concerns about other vaccine ingredients in relation to ASD. However, no links have been found between any vaccine ingredients and ASD.
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What If My Friend Has Autism Spectrum Disorder
Some people with ASD do not feel that they have a disorder and don’t want to change. They’re proud of who they are and they want to be accepted, even though they may have different strengths and weaknesses than most other people.
All people deserve respect. But kids with ASD may be teased, bullied, or left out because they’re different. Bullying and teasing are never the right way to treat other people, but it may be hard to be a friend with someone who has ASD.
Kids with ASD often don’t understand playful jokes. You may need to be very clear when you communicate with someone who has ASD.
Try to be patient and kind. Remember how hard it might be for the person with ASD to understand how to be a friend. Stand up for classmates who are bullied. Tell adults, so they can help protect kids who are bullied.
What Role Do Genes Play
Twin and family studies strongly suggest that some people have a genetic predisposition to autism. Identical twin studies show that if one twin is affected, then the other will be affected between 36 to 95 percent of the time. There are a number of studies in progress to determine the specific genetic factors associated with the development of ASD. In families with one child with ASD, the risk of having a second child with the disorder also increases. Many of the genes found to be associated with autism are involved in the function of the chemical connections between brain neurons . Researchers are looking for clues about which genes contribute to increased susceptibility. In some cases, parents and other relatives of a child with ASD show mild impairments in social communication skills or engage in repetitive behaviors. Evidence also suggests that emotional disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia occur more frequently than average in the families of people with ASD.
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How Do You Know If Your Child Is Not Autistic
Wendy Sue Swanson lists the following as signs that your child is developing great communication skills on time: Responds to her name between 9 and 12 months of age. Smiles by 2 months of age laughs and giggles around 4 to 5 months expresses with eye contact and smiles or laughter to your humor around 6 months.
How Does Autism Affect Kids
Autistic children may not reach the same developmental milestones as their peers, or they may demonstrate the loss of previously developed social or language skills.
For instance, a 2-year-old without autism may show interest in simple games of make-believe. A 4-year-old without autism may enjoy engaging in activities with other children. An autistic child may have trouble interacting with others or dislike it altogether.
Autistic children may also engage in repetitive behaviors, have difficulty sleeping, or compulsively eat nonfood items. They may find it hard to thrive without a structured environment or consistent routine.
If your child is autistic, you may have to work closely with their teachers to ensure they succeed in the classroom.
Many resources are available to help autistic children as well as their loved ones. Local support groups can be found through the national nonprofit The Autism Society of America.
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What Age Does Autism Usually Show Up
Some children show ASD symptoms within the first 12 months of life. In others, symptoms may not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with ASD gain new skills and meet developmental milestones, until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.
Restricted Or Repetitive Patterns Of Behavior Or Activities
These can include:
- an increase or decrease in sensitivity to specific sensory information from their surroundings, such as a negative reaction to a specific sound
- fixated interests or preoccupations
Autistic people are evaluated within each category, and the intensity of their symptoms is noted.
To receive an autism diagnosis, a person must display all three symptoms in the first category and at least two symptoms in the second category. Get more information on symptoms and how they may manifest in kids.
The exact cause of ASD is unknown. The most current research demonstrates theres no single cause.
Some suspected risk factors for ASD include:
- having an immediate family member whos autistic
- genetic mutations
An ASD diagnosis involves several screenings, genetic tests, and evaluations.
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How Is Autism Diagnosed
Doctors check babies and little kids for signs of autism at every checkup. A parent may think that something is wrong and tell the doctor. Maybe the child is old enough to speak but doesn’t. Or a kid doesn’t seem interested in people or plays in unusual ways.
When a doctor thinks a kid might have autism, he or she will work with a team of experts to see if it is autism or something else.
If My Older Child Is Diagnosed With Asd What Are The Chances Any Other Children Would Have Autism
Parents may take genetic tests to determine if their defective gene was passed on and led to their child developing autism. Research conducted at Duke University Medical Center found that this happens through a process called genetic imprinting.
Genetic imprinting goes against the typical laws of Mendelian genetics where genes are either recessive or dominant. In genetic imprinting, genes become turned off shortly after fertilization, or during the development of egg or sperm cells.
Imprinting affects a genes development, and through testing, genetic specialists can trace the pattern of inheritance of a disorder between parent and child.
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Breaking Through The Barriers Of Asd
ASD has no cure. But there is hope through treatment. Many children can learn to communicate and interact. Healthcare providers and mental health experts have learned a lot about how to break through to these children.
Here are some things we know about children with an ASD:
They may not be able to understand your nonverbal communications. They may not react to your smile or frown.
They take things literally. You need to be careful to say exactly what you mean. If you hurry the child by saying “Step on it,” don’t be surprised if he or she asks what to step on.
They may only be able to handle one thought or idea at a time. Keep conversations focused and simple.
They may want to only talk about the one thing they are really interested in at a given time.
They may see things differently than you do. You may not even notice ordinary sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and sights. But these may be physically painful to the child.
How Common Is Autism Spectrum Disorder
Based on most recent CDC report, ASD is estimated to affect about 1 in 54 children, with boys being more likely to have ASD than girls. There were more than 5 million adults in the US, or 2.21% of the population, with ASD as of 2017. Government statistics suggest that the prevalence of ASD has risen 10% to 17% in recent years.
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Genetic Bases Of Autism
Several psychiatric diseases have strong evidences of genetic involvement in their origin, and among them are schizophrenia, bipolar disturbance and autism. In 1977, a study with mono and dizygotic twins described for the first time the genetic predisposition of autism .
Nowadays, population studies suggest that the model that better describes DASs is multifactorial with a concordance of 60-92% in monozygotic twins and 0-10% in dizygotic twins . Differences found in studies between monozygotic twins support the multifactorial model, demonstrating the importance of environmental factors.
Several studies were performed to clarify genetic factors associated with the disease. Autism symptoms that suggest a strong genetic component are convulsions, mental deficiency, neurons and synapse decrease in amygdala, hippocampus and cerebellum, increased size of encephalon, and increased level of circulating serotonin. Even studies with monozygotic twins show a significant concordance, as opposed to dizygotic twins. Non-twin siblings present a risk of developing autism ranging from 0-30%, and this risk is much higher than in the general population .
The comparison of the mentioned populational groups, as well as the difference between men and women, shows epistatic effects that involve an interaction between several genes, suggesting the role of environmental factors .
What Genetic Testing May Tell You
Genetic testing cannot tell you anything definitive about autism at this point it may be able to tell you about some other genetic conditions, should you be concerned. One of these tests may inform you of:
- The chances that your future children may develop autism.
- What kinds of services and treatment may best benefit your child.
- Other health issues or concerns related to the genetic mutation that caused your childs autism. Some genetic disorders have been associated with autism. These include tuberous sclerosis, benign tumors that grow on the brain and other organs, and Fragile X syndrome, a condition that causes intellectual disabilities.
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So What Does Cause Autism
At the end of the day, autism is a complex disability and as far as we know theres no single cause. Instead, its likely to be due to a combination of environmental and genetic factors .
What research has told us is, there do seem to be a few factors that can increase the risk of autism, such as:
- Your childs sex: autism is four times more common in boys than girls.
- Family history: families who have a child with autism have an increased risk of having another child with the disorder.
- Other disorders: children with certain medical conditions have a higher risk of autism, or autism-like symptoms .
- Extremely pre-term babies: babies born under 26 weeks may have a higher risk of autism.
While these factors may increase the risk, it is important to know that falling into one of these categories does not mean that you or your child will definitely develop autism.
How Is Autism Treated
There is no cure for ASD. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can substantially improve those symptoms. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of the individual. Most health care professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
Educational/behavioral interventions: Early behavioral/educational interventions have been very successful in many children with ASD. In these interventions therapists use highly structured and intensive skill-oriented training sessions to help children develop social and language skills, such as applied behavioral analysis, which encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative ones. In addition, family counseling for the parents and siblings of children with ASD often helps families cope with the particular challenges of living with a child with ASD.
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