Autism Essay: The Isolated Individual
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. “It is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain and impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills” (Bee & Boyd 226). Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. The overall incidence of autism is consistent around the globe, but is four times more prevalent in boys than girls. “Autism knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries, and family income, lifestyle, and educational levels do not affect the chance of autism’s occurrence” (Frith 85)
Autism is one of five disorders coming under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), a category of neurological disorders characterized by “severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development,” including social interaction and communications skills (Zager 26).
“Autism is the most common of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders, affecting an estimated 2 to 6 per 1,000 individuals” (Wetherby 143). This means that as many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism.
While understanding of autism has grown tremendously since Dr. Leo Kanner first described it in 1943, most of the public, including many professionals in the medical, educational, and vocational fields, are still unaware of how autism affects people and how they can effectively work with individuals with autism. Contrary to popular understanding, many children and adults with autism may make eye contact, show affection, smile and laugh, and demonstrate a variety of other emotions, although in varying degrees.
Like other children, they respond to their environment in both positive and negative ways.
Every person with autism is an individual, and like all individuals, has a unique personality and combination of characteristics. Some individuals mildly affected may exhibit only slight delays in language and greater challenges with social interactions. The person may have difficulty initiating or maintaining a conversation. Communication is often described as talking at others (for example, talking in the form of monologue, allowing no interjecting comments from the other party). For children with autism, sensory integration problems are common.
Their senses may be over-or under-active. The fuzz on a peach may actually be experienced as painful or the smell may make the child gag. Some children with autism are particularly sensitive to sound, finding even the most ordinary daily noises painful. “Many professionals feel that some of the typical autism behaviors are actually a result of sensory integration difficulties” (Mesibov 59)
There is no known single cause for autism, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in autistic versus non-autistic children. Researchers are investigating a number of theories, including the link between heredity, genetics and medical problems.
In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting a genetic basis to the disorder. While no one gene has been identified as causing autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that autistic children may have inherited. It also appears that some children are born with a susceptibility to autism, but researchers have not yet identified a single “trigger” that causes autism to develop.
Other researchers are investigating the possibility that under certain conditions, a cluster of unstable genes may interfere with brain development resulting in autism. Still other researchers are investigating problems during pregnancy or delivery as well as environmental factors such as viral infections, metabolic imbalances, and exposure to environmental chemicals.
Whatever the cause, it is clear that children with autism and PDD are born with the disorder or born with the potential to develop it.
Bad parenting does not cause it. Autism is not a mental illness. Children with autism are not unruly kids who choose not to behave. Furthermore, no known psychological factors in the development of the child have been shown to cause autism.
There are no medical tests for diagnosing autism. “An accurate diagnosis must be based on observation of the individual’s communication, behavior, and developmental levels” (Cohen 103).
However, because many of the .