Autism is an autism spectrum disorders associated with brain development disabilities. In general, every child is affected in different ways. These include effective communication, social interaction, and delay in development (Zwaigenbaum et al., 2005). Children affected by autism may have behavioral challenges and intellectual disabilities. Autism disorder was merged in diagnosis umbrella of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) with the publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual of 2013 May. Earlier, Asperger syndrome, (PDD-NOS) Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, autistic disorder, and childhood disintegrative disorder were acknowledged as distinctive subtypes (Zwaigenbaum et al., 2005). There is a relation between autism spectrum disorder and motor coordination difficulties, physical health issues (gastrointestinal and sleep) and attention, and intellectual disability. However, people with ASD do extremely well in art, math, music and visual skills. Autism begins with early brain development, with symptoms and signs emerging at the age of two and three (Zwaigenbaum et al., 2005). Effective methods and researches are carried out for earlier diagnosis to improve outcomes through behavioral therapies and early intervention. This paper will discuss the symptoms of autism, causes, diagnosis, classification, prevention and management, and prognosis of autism.
Symptoms of Autism
Every person with autism has symptoms that include difficulties in building relationships and social interaction (Nazeer & Ghaziuddin, 2012). People with this indication have trouble in developing nonverbal communication skills like body posture, facial expression, and eye gazing. Autistic persons may fail to socialize with people of the same age, for instance, other children (Nazeer & Ghaziuddin, 2012). Usually, individuals with autism isolate themselves. In addition, they tend to be disinterested in sharing enjoyment and achievements with other persons. Autism causes patients not to understand other people’s feelings, for instance, sorrow and pain (Nazeer & Ghaziuddin, 2012). Another autism symptom relates to nonverbal and verbal communication. Patients with autism have difficulty in talking and sometimes they do not speak at all. People with autism also have trouble starting and keeping the conversation (Zwaigenbaum et al., 2005). However, autistic patients have a repetitive language problem, also known as echolalia. They repeatedly echo phrases heard earlier. They have trouble with listening perception and usually do not understand humor, hence, fail to know the implied meaning because they interpret the communication word for word (Zwaigenbaum et al., 2005). Another autism symptom is limited interest in playing. For instance, patients with autism have unusual focus on details. When a child plays with a toy car, they concentrate on the wheels instead of playing with the entire toy. Grown adults and children keep themselves preoccupied with given topics. License plates, trading cards, and video games fascinate them. Children with autism have a need for routines and monotony. Usually, kids with autism insist on driving the same route with the same car to school every day and eating bread before salad (Zwaigenbaum et al., 2005). In addition, persons with autism have stereotypical behaviors such as hand flapping and body rocking. Autism symptoms vary in every stage of human growth and development. For instance, during childhood, parents and caregivers are usually the first people to notice the symptoms during the first three years of the child. Often autism becomes a greater concern for parents when a child does not like to be carried, and is not interested in talking and playing certain games (Zwaigenbaum et al., 2005). Whereas, symptoms in the teen’s behavior patterns always change. In this stage, teenagers with autism gain skills but are often incapable to understand and relate to other people. Moreover, the risk of developing epilepsy, depression, and anxiety related problem is high at this age (Zwaigenbaum et al., 2005). During the adulthood, people with autism can work and live their lives. On the other hand, some adults with autism must be assisted through their entire life.
Causes of Autism
There are various causes of autism according to researchers. Autism may occur during the time of birth, because of various infections, or genetically passed on from parents to children (Landrigan, 2010). Environmental factors may also develop autism in children, when several abnormalities occur in numerous brain regions. Therefore, the disruption of early brain development in the womb may result in autism. In fact, the immune system of the body produces antibodies that may attack of the brain of children, leading to autism. Moreover, brain structure abnormalities cause autistic behaviors (Landrigan, 2010). Children with autism have abnormal timing of the brain growth. Their brain grows larger and faster during early childhood and afterward grows slower than the brains of healthy children that become well organized and bigger. Antigens also cause autism; they include heavy metals, bacteria, viruses, and foreign toxic matter. Exposed cells are attacked and damaged by antigens, leading to dysfunctional cells (Landrigan, 2010). Moreover, antigens damage and change the genetic cells code expression, resulting in malfunction. Lack of deficiency in most nutrients in the current diet, for instance, vitamins, zinc, and selenium, cause cells internal processes and cellular membranes to weaken. The impairing of the integrity of cell membranes that guard each cell leaving the cells in danger can cause autism (Landrigan, 2010). Research shows that imbalance and fatty acid deficiencies have a hand in neurodevelopment disorder in childhood. However, various bacteria produce trace amines, when they are overgrown. According to findings, receptor sites are located around the brain as chemical messenger receptors that affect the functioning of the brain (Landrigan, 2010). The production of the excess amine can lead to scrambling of brain signals that have an effect on mood, attention, and learning of a person with autism. Furthermore, it can cause severe brain development inference hence affect the development process (Landrigan, 2010). In addition, lipopolysaccharides enter the blood stream and later transfer to the brain, affecting memory.
Diagnosis of Autism
Making an early Autism diagnosis the better hence early intervention can start. However, there is an increasing concern about labeling children at a young age with autism. Early intervention is worthy for at least two years educational settings that resulted in positive changes among young children with autism (Lord, 2011). During a child evaluation, physicians depend on the behavior of the autistic patient in order to conduct the diagnosis. Various characteristics of autism behaviors are sometimes noticeable in early months of a child or sometimes the features show any time in the initial years (Lord, 2011). Before a child reaches the age of three, restricted behavior, communication, and socialization problems should be present for the diagnosis. Diagnosis consists of a two-stage process, including a comprehensive evaluation by a multidisciplinary team and developmental screening during the well-child checkups (Lord, 2011). The first stage involves screening of autism. A developmental screening test is a part of a well-child checkup. It is important to ask a pediatrician to use such test for a child’s routine check-up (Lord, 2011). A parent’s observations concerning the development of a child are helpful during a child screening. For instance, reviewing a child photo album helps parents realize the beginning of each behavior and the progress of the child. Many screening devices have been designed to get together quick information concerning a child’s communicative and social improvement in medical settings (Lord, 2011). They include a social communication questionnaire for four year olds and older kids, Screening Tool for Autism for two years old, the modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, and Checklist for Autism in Toddlers. The second stage includes the diagnostic evaluation of autism. It should be comprehensive for accurate ruling for autism spectrum disorders and other developmental problems (Lord, 2011). A speech therapist, a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a neurologist among other children with autism diagnosing professionals can carry out diagnostic autism evaluation. ASD are complex disorders that usually involve genetic problems. Therefore, genetic assessment and neurologic testing is required for a comprehensive evaluation (Lord, 2011). Childhood Autism Rating Scale that is suitable for kids of over two years helps in calculating the child’s relationship to his/her surrounding, verbal communication, listening response, adaptation to change, and body movements (Lord, 2011). The examiner obtains parent’s information and observes a child, and then the kid’s behavior is rated on a scale based on the same age children and their deviation from typical behavior.
Classification of Autism
There are various categories of autism. They include rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental, Asperger syndrome, and autistic disorder (Tsai, 2005). Rett syndrome has obvious symptoms that include loss of communication skills. Children with rett syndrome loose their capability to speak even though recently they have had normal language and speech skills (Tsai, 2005). Childhood disintegrative disorder allows children to grow normally until they reach the age of between two and five, then noticeable problems as social skills, motor, and regression occur. Pervasive developmental disorder symptoms do not allow cannot be classified under specific disorder, according to professionals (Tsai, 2005). Furthermore, some syndromes are mild, while others may be severe. Asperger syndrome is categorized as the mildest under the umbrella of ASD (Tsai, 2005). Their symptoms are manageable and people with this disorder can improve under proper therapies and constant help. Individuals with Asperger syndrome have no difficulty in running and walking, they lack the capability to start social interaction, and significantly delay in language development (Tsai, 2005). In addition, autistic disorder is evident during the first three years of life. Because of such characteristics as delays in social and behavior skills, and communication, often people with autistic disorder tend to stay away from others.
Autism management requires a number of approaches. First, regular screening for signs and symptoms of autistic disorder in children is important for early discovery of the disease (Nazeer & Ghaziuddin, 2012). Another approach includes invention of special programs that help persons with autism. With the help of behaviorally oriented therapeutic programs immediate diagnosis of the patients can be carried out. People surrounding autistic patients including health care givers, pediatricians, parents, and teachers, need to seek assistance from people, who are well informed about early intervention programs for such persons. Parents with autistic children should seek help from Autism Society to know appropriate optimal interventions referrals (Nazeer & Ghaziuddin, 2012). Behavioral psychologist and skilled instructor should help teach parents effective ways to adapt to these challenging behaviors. However, autism prognosis is a result of a long-term treatment of people with autism (Nazeer & Ghaziuddin, 2012). Though persons with autistic disorder live normally, appropriate treatment and early intervention can help them function positively and manage to be independent, unlike other autistic person that will require assistance all their life.
Autism begins in early childhood, as the child reaches his/her first year. Autism is a well-studied subject and is defined by symptoms, causes, diagnosis, classification, prevention, and prognosis. Symptoms of autism include difficulties in interaction, isolation, not being empathetic, and repetitiveness. However, autism symptoms vary in every stage of life. Autism is caused by the complications during birth, genetics, lack of nutrients in diets, production of excess amines by the body, and imbalance and fatty acid deficiency. Autism diagnosis is best to be identified earlier to start an early treatment. Diagnosis has been categorized into two stages. First, autism screening with the help of a parent observation can be easier. Another diagnosis stage is autism diagnostic valuation. It is carried out with the help of speech therapist, psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologist. Autism classifies into five categories, such as autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental, childhood disintegrative disorder, and rett syndrome. Autism is managed by the first screening of any signs and symptoms. It can also be controlled through invention of special programs to help people with autism. Caregivers and parents should be given lessons on how to handle autistic patients. Early involvement helps autistic patients to function well and do not depend on assistance.