“Many years ago, I watched a young boy rock back and forth as he worked a crossword puzzle. I tried to distract him from working the puzzle to ride bikes with me. I continuously asked him to play with me, but he kept staring at the puzzle while I attempted to look in his eyes. He took the puzzle apart and flipped the pieces in the air, one at a time. He did not speak, but he made crying noises.
The more I asked questions or talked to him, the louder his cries became. As his frustration grew, he balled his fists up, punched his eyes, and kicked his feet. I was curious about his activity. I was later told the boy my brother} was autistic,” says Tamara Robinson in an interview.
Autism is “a syndrome of childhood characterized by a lack of social relationship, a lack of communication abilities, persistent compulsive, rituals, and resistance to change” (Paluszny 1). For centuries, medical professionals have tried to understand autism and its origin.
The above example shows only a few examples of autistic behavior.
The history of autism extends, as far back as the late sixteenth century; however, during that time it was not identified as this illness. Here is a statement from before the discovery of the illness:
In 1799, a boy about eleven years of age was found naked in the woods of
Averyron, France. He was dirty, covered with sores, mute, and behaved like
A wild animal. Jean Itard, the physician of the new institution for deaf-mutes,
Was given charge of the abandoned child. From Itard’s description, Victor
Showed many features of autismhe did not look at people and never
Played with the toys, but showed remarkable memory in recalling the position
Of objects in his room and resisted any change of these objects.
In attempt to educate Victor, Itard used a glass of water as a form of encouragement, but he continued to remain silent and never spoke any words.
It was not until 1943 that the label “autism” was used by a child psychiatrist, named Leo Kanner to describe the symptoms. “The term autism derives from auto, the Greek word for self,” (Hamblin 137). Kanner used this term when he studied eleven children who had a “unique form of schizophrenia” (Hamblin 136). Although, it was later determined that even though some of the characteristics of schizophrenia and autism are not the same, Kanner did open new doors for an intensive study of a confusing syndrome.
The causes of autism are unknown.
In most cases, the pregnancies of mothers of autistic children were normal. Occasionally, there were cases of maternal bleeding, prematurity, or maternal rubella, but these situations do not appear consistently. One possibility that scientists have researched is genetics. Chromosomal studies have been attempted to detect if autism is a result of too many chromosomes, because autism is more dominant in males than females, (Ritvo 169). ” The frequency in males is approximately 3/5,000″ (Ritvo 169). Since females have two X-chromosomes and males have an X and Y chromosome, than the Y chromosome can be considered in current research activities.
Another possibility is the malfunctioning of the brain. According to Adler, “neurobiological researchers have localized several regions of the brain that are responsible for social interaction skills” (248). Frith says, “a biological defect causes autism, the symptoms which include a lack of communication, socialization and imagination. Scientists are continually searching for answers.
During the stages of infancy, the autistic baby seems normal. Then, a period of time before the age of three, the child experiences regression.
In some cases, the first signs are at the age of three. There is no exact determination of when the signs appear. When autistic parents were told to think back in time before the third year, some parents said that they could not “pinpoint exactly what the difference was, but they described a vague feeling that something was wrong from infancy” (Paluszny 4).
In normal development of children, Paluszny says that “one of the first milestones is the social smile” (4). Babies smile and respond to the faces and voices of adults. The autistic infant does not bring about a “social smile”; rather the child will only respond to sounds and sights that .