Thursday, March 10, 2011

Autism: 5 Things You've Wondered But Never Asked

While most people understand that autism affects the brain, impairing communication and interaction skills, very few realize that scientists don't even really know what causes it. Recent studies indicated that as many as 1 in 166 people are affected by some form of autism. With the rate so high, educating ourselves about autism is crucial. Here are a few things about autism that might surprise you.

1. Is there more than one kind of autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is the title that describes a group of conditions. Classic autism, which is also known as Kanner's syndrome, is one of these. Also Asperger's syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). Each of these differ in expression of symptoms and even different people diagnosed with the same condition can vary in their level of functioning. Despite these different categories, autism causes developmental difficulties in three major areas: communication, social behavior, and repetitive behavior patterns.

2. What causes autism?

While there is no exact answer for what causes autism, there are several things that scientists do know. People with autism differ neurologically from those without autism. Some people may have a genetic disposition toward autism. The brain chemical, Serotonin is elevated in people with autism. While these conclusions do not seem very close to a cause, they are encouraging to families who deal with this condition. From the point of view of those whose loved ones are autistic, they want to first, find the cause, and then find the cure.

3. Is there any prevention?

Early intervention has been shown to help those with autism. While many parents don't discover their child has autism until they are toddlers, those who identify the problem early on and seek professional assistance have a greater chance of having higher functioning children. From a report of one family with two boys with autism, the children developed normally until nearly 3 years old, when they began to slip backward cognitively and socially. It is very important to diagnose autism early, as this seems to be the only way to affect the outcome of the brain, as it is in it's most crucial stage of development.

4. Who is more likely to be autistic?

Boys are more four times more likely to have autism than girls. This is the only discrimination that autism affords. Otherwise, autism doesn't care about race, wealth or status, it affects all populations equally.

5. What is the treatment autism?

Autism can be treated through a combination of drugs and therapies. It is not uncommon for a child with autism to have several therapists in their home during the week. While these are not cures, they can help families manage through difficult times in an autistic child's development. Life expectancy is no different for a person with autism than it is for the general population, so parents must think ahead to who will care for their autistic children when and if they no longer can.

Autism is a very complicated condition that affects millions of Americans. And because people with autism don't generally display any physical signs it is hard for strangers to identify their disorder. Often, a child with autism appears out of control in a public setting, kicking, thrashing, screaming, and causing alarm to on-lookers. It is important that we all know a little more about autism so we can be more sympathetic in these situations.

Jessica Deets is passionate about autism and other disorders and volunteers her time to help organizations dedicated to overcoming physical disorders. The website at [] has more information and news about autism.

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