Carrie, Sydney, Alex D, Allison B, Connor R, Ivan B

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Autism is a disease included in the ASDs (Autism Spectrum Disorders). It is also known as Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). There are many things in which autism can be categorized by. Other diseases included in ASD are sperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. Some statistics are that 6 out of every 1,000 children will have autism and males have a much greater chance to have autism. If you have autism, there is a higher risk of having a mutated x-chromosome which means that mental retardation, tuberous sclerosis which is having tumors in your brain, seizures, tourettes and learning disabilities like ADD.

Signs of Autism

Autism has a multitude of different signs and symptoms to identify at an early age. The main three things that help you diagnose someone with autism are that there are problems with social interaction, verbal communication, and repetitive behaviors or very obssessive interests. These three things can be very mild or they can be very severe. If a child has autism, they may not even respond to their name and they will probably avoid eye contact. Autistic children have a very hard time picking up on social clues and have little empathy. They are unable to understand tone of voice or facial expressions. Autistic children can have either repetitive behavior or self-harming behavior. Autistic children also have a resistance to being cuddled or hugged. An interesting fact about having autism is that they don't feel pain as well but to other sensory things they are very alert. Boys are also 4 times as likely to get autism then girls are. Families with one autistic child are 5% more likely to have another child with autism then a regular family.

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Treatment for Autism

Autism doesn't have a cure and it lasts throughout a person's entire life. Therapies and behavior interventions are the only methods that seem to be useful. It seems that the earlier the treatment, the better it works. One type of treatment is educational interventions. In this, therapists are using skill training sessions to help develop the necessary social and language skills. Family counseling is also a part of this, helping the families deal with the challenges of living with an autistic child. Another type of treatment is the obvious, medications. Antidepressants are perscribed to help anxiety, depression or OCD. Anti-psychotic medications help the very severe behavior problems. Seizures can be treated with anticonvulsant drugs, and stimulant drugs help with ADD as well as helping decrease impulsivity and hyperactivity. Other numerous therapies also help. They are a little controversial, so it isn't garunteed to work by science. Drugs cant cure autism and neither can any other kinds of medication.
To learn more about Autism on a fairly basic level, the Autism Fact Sheet is a great place to look.

When Betsy and her guide dog came to visit our class, they mentioned that there are guide dogs for autism as well. For autistic kids, there is a service of dog therapy to help. The Autism Service Dogs of America is the non-profit organization that organizes the therapeutic dogs for the kids. This service provides service dogs to kids which lets the child and the family as a whole with the mobility and socialization. The dog goes with the child at all times when the child leaves home and even goes to school with them. It seems that the dog calms the child and gives a positive social idea for the child. To get more information as well as FAQ's this website is the main site for the ASDA.

There is not a single factor that is known to cause autism; it is just accepted to be caused by abnormalities in the brain structure or function. Doctors are able to tell the difference between the brains of children with autism and neuro-typical children using brain scans. There are many theories about the cause of autism: heredity, genetics, and family problems. There is a patten or autism or related disabilities in many families, which suggest that it may be genetic. There is not a single gene that is indentified as causing autism; however, researchers are looking in children with autism for irregular segments of their genetic code, which may have been inherited. Some children are even born with a chance of developing autism, but researchers still have not found a single cause for the disorder. There is another theory that under certain conditions a group of genes that are unstable may hinder the development of the brain, which leads to autism. The cause of autism is still being speculated, but other possibilities have been brought up that it may be due to problems during pregnancy or delivery and environmental factors like viral infections, metabolic imbalances, and exposure to environmental chemicals.

Autism in Adults
The public school only is required to provide services until the person with autism reaches the age of 22. After that the person’s family is left with the challenge of arranging living arrangements, and employment. This is a hard problem to solve because their child may appear to be an adult, but since they have autism their mind is still that of a young child. Parents are advised to search for programs and facilities for their child before they finish school. They are also advised to communicate with other parents of autistic children in order to help them make the important decisions regarding the child’s future as an adult.

Repetitively stacking or lining up objects may indicate autism
Repetitively stacking or lining up objects may indicate autism

From Wikipedia

"Autism is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. The autism spectrum disorders (ASD) also include the related conditions Asperger syndrome and PDD-NOS, which have fewer signs and symptoms."

About half of parents of children with ASD notice their child's unusual behaviors by age 18 months, and about four-fifths notice by age 24 months.[49] As postponing treatment may affect long-term outcome, any of the following signs is reason to have a child evaluated by a specialist without delay:
  • No babbling by 12 months.
  • No gesturing (pointing, waving goodbye, etc.) by 12 months.
  • No single words by 16 months.
  • No two-word spontaneous phrases (other than instances of echolalia) by 24 months.
  • Any loss of any language or social skills, at any age.[14]

Autism Facts

  • 1 out of every 150 children will have autism
  • Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability
  • There is a 10-17% growth annually in autism
  • $90 Billion is the annual cost
  • $200-400 Billion is the estimated annual cost in 10 years
  • 90% of costs are for Adults
  • Lifelong price of care can be reduced by 2/3 by an early diagnosis and intervention
  • Autism is more common in boys than in girls

List of Famous People Thought to have Autism

  • Albert Einstein
  • Isaac Newton
  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Bob Dylan
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

One day last week, a woman named Ashley who was one of the leaders at Bridge 2 Sports (This is not a complete sentence).
She was in a wheelchair. I expressed interest to Ms. Hoffman about wanting to learn more about autism. She told me that Ashley has a son who has autism. Here are some basic questions and answers about autism from a personal point of view:
- What were the first signs to you that led you to think your son had autism?
This is not a simple answer. I have three children. My oldest son has dyslexia, daughter ADHD and my youngest son has Autism, and is verbal and ADHD. Being a person who grew up with a physical disability, many times, I did not "fit" into the mold, but was very capably, if given the opportunity to work my own way. This was the parenting style my husband and I took with our children.
When John began reading at 3 years old, I was thankful because I did not have to do all the dyslexia exercises including tactile, audio and visual support exercises. John also understood mathematical formulas very easy, and he loved to create things with paper. I did not think anything was wrong with this, but took it as his gift, as each of our children had their own unique gifts within their persons!
We were living in England at the time. John started school at 4 years old. John was in nursery (2/3 years) following the British system. He did have separation issues, but I did not relate that to anything, but needing maturity and experience.
As school started, the separation had not gotten any better. By year two, his school work was considerably going down. We choose to homeschool him after we had a meeting with the teacher and school Head. The schoolwork he had done the year before was so much better than what he currently was doing, that it seemed the right way forward.
I had two surgeries and had to come back to the State for medical reasons. We put John in a Montessori school as it was similar to what we were doing at home.
The social interaction with peers became more obvious. We had sought help with child counselors and social group training. Nothing seemed to work. It was at the last class that the instructor wondered if John was on the autism spectrum.
Finally, at age 12, John was diagnosed with Autism. When my husband and I began to learn about Autism, we realized all the gifts John showed as a young child, were really quality of Autism.
- Have you gotten treatment for this?
Yes! We have attended classes for parents and children. We also, as a family, did a socialization class together to learn techniques to support John in seeing social clues and how to respond to them.
If so, do you think your son has improved his condition?
Yes, but it was an effort on both parent side and child side. We as parents had to understand what John was seeing, then adjust our methods. We have seen benefit to the process for both John and ourselves and his siblings.
- What is the severity of your son's disease?
Johns would be on the milder side as he is verbal.

- What is your day-to-day life like living with an autistic child?
You need to remain calm and keep an even temperament. You need to prepare for the day and what expectation of each event. If there is a hole in the plan, let that be know as one can adjust to it. I think overall, it makes a parent a better person.

- Is it more difficult to care for him because you are in a wheelchair?
No, in fact, John has learned to see what I need. He is a great companion when we are out and about. When getting in and out of the car, he know exactly what to do. Sometime I have to remind him to hold a door, but for the most part, he has observed and modeled. As a young child, our refrigerator was the size of a dishwasher, as it the case in England, and I showed him where the yogurt, drinks, etc., and he would take care of those thing at a young age (2 1/2). He is a great helper at shopping too, when he know we have to do it!
- Do you think there are any cures on the rise for autism?
Not that I am aware of. There is a new study that shows the brain of a person with Autism processes differently. We just need to understand the differences. When we allow one to grow up in an environment that does not judge and make one feel unwelcome, the person develops into a stronger person who has talents that can be shared with the community.
- How can people help out and support autism?
Understanding the differences and what support helps. That is huge. Respect the limits (needs quiet portion of the day, need to understand the schedule, etc.) and allow the freedom to discover the strengths. Einstein comes to mind. He did not conform to the "traditional" class room. His mother had the foresight to let him be. What a good thing she did!

Related Links

Autism Society of America
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Autism Fact Sheet
Autism Speaks
Autism Research Institute
Here's an article in the New York Times about growing old with Autism.
Autistic Disorder
Here is a wikipedia article about a movie called "Miracle Run". It is based on a true story about two twin autistic boys, one of which is a great cross country runner but can't learn the course and how he overcomes that.