Autism Disorders

JUST WHAT IS A NORMAL CHILD?

The reason many doctors call these disorders “pervasive,” is that they pervade or “penetrate” every aspect of the child’s development: educational, social, emotional and physical…

Autism Disorders

“I knew something was wrong but my Pediatricians told me that she would be fine; she’ll catch up. She was always delayed with speech, but she did everything else early. Around 15 months, her personality changed. Her affect was completely flat. No more beautiful smiles that light up the room. Again we made excuses. She also started waking up in the middle of the night for hours.

Starting around 18 months or so, Elizabeth began having vomiting episodes. She might just vomit once. Sometimes, she would start and we couldn’t stop her. She ended up in the hospital twice within 2 weeks time. Everyone told us that she just had a virus and had caught it again. We were referred out to a Pediatric Genetic Endocrinologist because of the fact that she dehydrated so quickly and would drop her Co2 to very low levels. Her amino acids were a little wacky as well. He ran tons of blood tests and found nothing…”

Autism Spectrum Disorders, which some authors refer to as “Pervasive Developmental Disorders” (PPDs), is a disorder that appears in early childhood, causing delays in many basic areas of development such as learning to talk, interact with others, and so much more.

A “spectrum disorder” means that it is a disorder with a wide variety of mild to severe symptoms in many different combinations. This means that each affected person is different and will have his or her own set of individual symptoms. The reason many doctors call these disorders “pervasive,” is that they pervade or penetrate every aspect of the child’s development: educational, social, emotional and physical. People are born with the disorder; it is not something their parents cause (although that can be a matter of hot controversy with all the new explosion of autism spectrum disorders showing up lately). The ratio of boys with autistic spectrum disorders is four times that of girls.

It is extremely hard for professionals to diagnose any kind of childhood mental or developmental disorder. Usually they work from reports by teachers and parents. Even doctors mistake autistic spectrum disorders for attention deficit, bi-polar, oppositional defiant, conduct, language or communication disorders, or for mental illnesses like depression and childhood schizophrenia. They all have similar symptoms or ones that overlap.

Autism Disorders include the following conditions:

1) Autism — Doctors often call it classic autism, Early Infantile Autism, or Kanner’s Autism. Publishing in the 1940′s, Dr. Leo Kanner was among the first to describe the condition. Before his work, doctors labeled such children as mentally retarded or emotionally disturbed. Autistic people show the three symptoms in varying degrees. About 75% have IQs below 70. There are usually problems with sensory integration, which means they have trouble processing information through their senses of touch, smell, sight, taste and touch.

2) Asperger Syndrome — Sometimes mistaken for high-functioning autism. “Aspies” often are not diagnosed until after age three, because they usually have no problem acquiring and using language. The most distinct symp is an intense interest in a narrow subject. Some children with Asperger Syndrome can recite whole movies or the complete texts of books; others memorize endless facts about some obscure subject. They may show signs of autism such as the need for strict routines, inability to master social interactions and communication, and odd repetitive behaviors. They often have problems controlling their voices.

3) Rett’s Syndrome — Affects only girls. It was discovered only in 1966 by Austrian Dr. Andreas Rett. Scientists believe that it is not inherited but caused by a random genetic mutation. Babies with Rett’s start out normally, but between age 6 to 18 months, their development slows down as their heads no longer grow normally. They do not develop normal speech, and exhibit unusual repetitive hand movements, torso shaking, and unusual patterns of walking. Often there are breathing problems, seizures, rigid muscles, retarded growth, and other problems. Life expectancy is around 40 years.

4) Childhood Disintegrative Disorder — An extremely rare disorder affecting mostly males. The child is okay until around 42 months old. Then a dramatic loss of language and social skills occurs. The child may lose bladder and bowel control and develop seizures. Usually these children have very low intelligence. CDD is the easiest for doctors to diagnose.

5) Pervasive Developmental Disorder/Not Otherwise Specified — With PPD/NOS, symptoms don’t fall neatly into place. A diagnostician cannot absolutely declare that the person has Asperger Syndrome or autism because some of the symptoms are missing, present but in the wrong combination, or very mild. This is a “catch-all” diagnosis or an umbrella term sometimes used until a more precise diagnosis can be made.

Signs & Symptoms of Autism Disorders:

A “spectrum disorder” means that it is a disorder with a wide variety of mild to severe symptoms in many different combinations. This means that each affected person is different and will have his or her own set of individual symptoms.

All five Autism Disorders have three similar symptoms:

The first is impaired social interaction. Some autistic people do not seem to understand the difference between people and objects. Others can be very affectionate, yet have trouble relating to others because they cannot understand social cues and body language. One frequent symp is the inability to enjoy mutual interests and experiences with other people. Another very common trait is the inability to make eye contact.

The second symp is impaired communication. Again, there can be a big range of communication problems. Many severely autistic people never learn to speak at all. However, high-functioning people with Asperger Syndrome often speak articulately and with erudition, although they may never master the “give and take” aspect of true communication. Most people who suffer from a PPD do not understand symbolic speech or gestures nor can they play “make believe.”

The third symp is certain odd or stereotyped behaviors. Some autistic people demand routines and rituals and become extremely agitated if their “rules” are not followed. They may cling to certain objects or items of clothing. There may be unusual body movements that seem to be self-soothing, such as rocking, head banging, or hand wringing. These are called “stereotyped behaviors.”

Autism red flags in children of all ages:

As children get older, the red flags for autism increase and become more diverse. There are many warning signs and symptoms, but they typically revolve around verbal and non-verbal communication difficulties, impaired social skills, and repetitive behaviors.

Verbal warning signs and symptoms of autism:

— Slow to develop language skills;
— Repeats or echoes certain words or phrases;
— Has trouble expressing needs;
— Used to say a few words or babble, but doesn’t anymore;

Non-verbal warning signs and symptoms of autism:

— Avoids eye contact;
— Doesn’t play “pretend” games;
— Reacts unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sounds;
— Doesn’t seem to hear when others talk to him or her;

Social warning signs and symptoms of autism:

— Appears uninterested in other people;
— Has trouble understanding or talking about feelings;
— Doesn’t know how to talk to or play with others;
— Prefers not to be held or cuddled;

Repetitive behavior warning signs and symptoms of autism:

— Has difficulty adapting to changes in routine;
— Shows unusual attachments to toys or other objects;
— Obsessively lines things up or arranges them in a certain order;
— Repeats the same actions or movements over and over again;