People with autism have been productive members of society when given the opportunity. The restrictions and limitations placed upon autistic individuals have created skeptics and negative stereotypes. Although, not every high functioning autistic person grows up to be a genius or an extraordinarily gifted individual, but several have surpassed the limiting expectations when given the opportunity. Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Leonardo Da Vinci, to name a few, have broken barriers and placed themselves in history as remarkable individuals. Autism, also sometimes called Infantile Autism, Early Infantile Autism, Autistic Disorder, or Kanner+s syndrome, is a severe developmental disorder that is distinguished by communication and behavior problems that usually develop before the age of three. The term autism refers to the autistic individuals vacant, withdrawn appearance.
First named in 1943 by an American child psychologist, Leo Kanner, early infantile autism describes a rare group of symptoms. Its incidence is approximately 4.5 in 10,000, and autistic males outnumber females by 4 to 1, some studies suggest a 3 to 1 ratio. Autistic children ordinarily are unable to use language meaningfully, showing impaired non-verbal and verbal communication, including abnormal speech patterns or loss of speech. About half of all autistic children are mute, and those with speech frequently only mechanically repeat what they have heard.
Behaviors such as repeating body movements, unusual responses to the world around them and insistence of following strict routines are common. In some cases, individuals may display aggressive or self- injurious behavior. No one individual with autism will display all of its possible characteristics. Instead, each individual may demonstrate a unique combination of symptoms... Symptoms vary from individual to individual and can range from mild to severe. Some autistic children have advanced ability such as mathematical skill, such as the autistic savant depicted in the film Rain Man.
The estimated prevalence of savant abilities in autism is ten percent, whereas the prevalence in the non-autistic population, including those with mental retardation, is less than one percent. The cause, prognosis, and treatment of autism are still under study. Autism has no single cause. Researchers believe that several genes and environmental factors such as viruses and chemicals may contribute to the development of the disorder. Numerous studies of people with autism have found abnormalities in several regions of the brain, including the cerebellum, hippocampus and amygdala. Neurons in these regions appear to be smaller than normal and have stunted nerve fibers.
Robert G. Voight, M.D., a developmental pediatrician, says that much of the research into the brain anatomy of autistic people is preliminary and based upon a few autopsy studies. He says additional research is needed. The technology that would enable researchers to detect microscopic changes within the brain of children suspected of having autism doesn t exist yet. Thirty years ago, mothers who were considered cold and who showed little affection were though to be the cause of autism. Some researchers are exploring areas that are more controversial.
One such area is a possible link between autism and rouge peptides produced when people have trouble digesting cow's milk or wheat gluten. According to the theory, the peptides, which mimic neurotransmitters and hormones, somehow escape from the gut and travel through the bloodstream to the brain, where they interfere with brain development. Other researchers are looking into whether autism is an autoimmune disease caused by an allergic reaction to something in the diet that prompts the immune system to attack the brain. Symptoms in some autistic children improve as they mature.
Moreover, some people, usually those on the least severe spectrum, eventually may lead normal or near normal lives. For others however, there is little improvement in language or social skills and the adolescent years can mean a worsening of behavior problems. Although there is no cure for autism, many therapies and interventions aimed at remedying specific symptoms have been developed. The best- studied therapies include educational-behavioral and medical interventions. Educational-behavioral interventions include strategies that emphasize highly structured and intensive skill training, tailored to the child. Therapists work to help autistic children learn most effectively and rapidly when very young, educational-behavioral therapy should begin as soon as possible.
Drug therapies include a variety of medications to reduce behaviors that can be self-injurious or cause other troublesome symptoms. Medications generally should be reserved for those children whose behavior is potentially dangerous to themselves or others, or for children who are unable to take advantage of educational programs because of their behavior.