Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) affect a person's ability to socialize, communicate and interact with others. People suffering from autism may be affected by a range of medical problems too. Symptoms usually become apparent early in children who are affected. Autism affects children to varying degrees - this is why child psychologists and pediatricians talk about the autistic "spectrum." Autistic disorders at different levels on the spectrum are sometimes referred to by different names. For example, Asperger's Syndrome is thought to be a developmental disorder at the milder end of the autism spectrum. Autism generally stays with children for the rest of their lives and influences their development - therefore there are different treatments and techniques for managing autism in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Childhood Autism Symptoms
Some kids with autism show signs of the condition from a very early age, whereas others may develop normally for a few years before problems become apparent. In some cases, children actually lose developmental skills they've already acquired. A very severely autistic child probably won't be able to communicate with other people in any way whatsoever, but this level of autism is rare.
Generally speaking, autism impacts child development in three areas:
1. Social interaction
2. Language acquisition
Childhood signs of autism may be seen in an infant who:
- Doesn't respond to his name being called
- Makes poor eye contact
- Seems not to hear you when you speak to him
- Doesn't like being cuddled
- Seems unaware of emotions in other people
- Prefers to play by himself
- Doesn't begin talking until after the age of 2
- Seems to forget how to say words and phrases that he knew before
- Doesn't make eye contact when speaking
- Speaks with an unusual tone of voice or rhythm (sometimes robotic)
- Can't initiate or continue a conversation
- Repeats words continuously but doesn't seem to know how to put them in a sentence
- Makes a lot of repetitive movements (spinning, hand flapping, rocking)
- Creates his own routines or rituals and objects to having them disturbed or changed
- Can't stay still
- Becomes overly fascinated with a certain part of a toy or other object
- Is very sensitive to light, noises and touch but doesn't seem to feel pain
Childhood Autism Causes And Treatment
Diagnoses of autism are on the rise, but it's not clear whether that's because this childhood development problem is becoming more common, or because parents and the medical community are becoming more aware of its symptoms. As yet, we don't know exactly what causes autism, but it's thought that genetic and environmental factors are involved. The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) childhood vaccine does not cause autism. A study published in 1998 speculated that there could be a link, but was later retracted because there was no evidence to support its claims. If you don't give your child the MMR vaccine, you put him and the other children around him at the risk of disease.
Autism is a lifelong condition, but in many cases, parents and children learn to manage and live with it very well. Children with mild autism symptoms may grow up to be normal or near-normal functioning teenagers and adults. Support for autistic kids includes behavior and communication therapies, educational therapies, and medications. There is no one standard treatment for everyone. It takes kids, parents, teachers, educational psychologists and doctors to work as a team to find the right treatment method for an individual child.
Childhood Asperger's Syndrome
As mentioned above, childhood Asperger's is usually a milder form of autism. Asperger's symptoms include social awkwardness and obsession-like interest in certain narrow topics or things. Because of this, kids with Asperger's (and autism for that matter) sometimes develop in-depth knowledge of certain fields and have the ability to memorize impressive amounts of information. Whereas a child with more severe autism may have trouble communicating at all, an Asperger's kid may have problems "reading" other people or responding to their emotions. He may talk for a long time without noticing that his listener is bored or trying to change the subject, or he may have a tendency to interrupt, or to say things that are hurtful to others without realizing.
Childhood Down Syndrome
Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder which affects both physical and mental development in children. Some children with Down Syndrome also suffer from ASD problems, but this can be hard to diagnose. It's estimated that autistic spectrum disorder affects around 7% of Down Syndrome kids.
Autism support is available from your health care provider. Parents of autistic children often communicate with and help one another in local support groups or online. There are also plenty of websites providing autism advice and information.