Autism and the Autistic Child, Explained

Autism is commonly described as a neurodevelopmental disorder that shows itself in abnormal patterns of interests, social interaction, communication ability, as well as in patterns of behavior. Although the exact etiology of autism is still unknown to this day, many experienced researchers believe that autism results from genetically mediated vulnerabilities, to environmental triggers. While there is debate about the nature, magnitude, and mechanisms, for such environmental factors, researchers have identified seven genes which are common among those individuals who have been diagnosed as autistic. Some estimates place the rate of the occurrence of autism as high as one child in 166 in the United States. The National Institute of Mental Health on the other hand estimate this rate to be more in the order of one in 1000.  The autistic community has debated these figures for those diagnosed with autism, for some time with no real conclusion reached.

Families which have already had one autistic child, the odds of a second autistic child increase dramatically, and may reach as high as one in twenty.  Autism is approximately 3 to 4 times more likely in boys, but girls born with this disorder will often times develop much more severe symptoms, and also suffer from greater cognitive impairment. The diagnosis of Autism is based on a generally accepted list of psychiatric criteria, in addition a series of standardized clinical tests may also be used to develop the diagnosis of Autism.  The lack of a definitive test, such as a blood test which might be used to diagnose many diseases, leaves much debate in borderline cases.

Autism may not be physiologically obvious, and it is for this reason a complete physical and neurological evaluation will normally play a big part in diagnosing autism. Some are now speculating that autism is not a single disorder, but a group of several distinct disorders, that appear in similar ways.  Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine recently have discovered a link between autism, abnormal blood vessel function and oxidative stress. The study goes on to suggest that, if researchers could find more evidence linking oxidative stress and decreased blood flow to the brain with the pathology of autism, large improvements in Autism therapy could be on the horizon.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, definition of Autism, Autism must cause delays in "social interaction, as well as delays in language development as it is used in social communication, or symbolic or imaginative play," with "onset prior to age 3 years", . The ICD-10 also requires symptoms to be "present before the age of three years." While there have been large increases in the reported diagnoses of autism, the reasons of which intensely discussed and debated by researchers in psychology, and also within the scientific community.

Some children who have been diagnosed with autism can improve their social skills, as well as other life skills to a level in which they can fully experience a mainstream education, as well as develop their social skills to the point of being comfortable attending social events.  This will come at the price of a lot of time spent in therapy, and practice, and also schooling.

At the present time, it would seem that there is no cure for autism in the near future without major breakthroughs in the current technology, or without advances in medicine. Some autistic children and adults, who are able to communicate in some manner, have expressed opposition to attempts to find a cure for their autism, because they feel that autism is a part of who they are as individuals.

The autistic community as a general rule prefer the use of the term autistic, when a reference is made to someone who has been diagnosed with autism.  The reasons for this vary within the autistic community, and are considered to be highly controversial,  While the term autistic will often used, the person-first terminology terms, person with autism, or person who experiences autism, can be used instead of autistic.

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Note: that the contents on this site are not presented from a medical practitioner, and that any and all health care planning should be made under the guidance of your own medical and health practitioners. The content within only presents an overview based upon research for educational purposes and does not replace medical advice from a practicing physician.