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Understanding And Diagnosing Autism
It has been said that autism is probably one of the most misunderstood ailments today. What makes it
hard to categorize is the fact that there are many different degrees of autism. Some degrees of it are
barely noticeable, which then becomes a big question mark as to whether a particular person is really
afflicted with autism. On the other hand, some cases of it are severe enough to where the afflicted
person cannot function in normal life on their own.
Autism does not indicate a lack of intelligence necessarily. Consider for example the movie "Rain Man"
where Dustin Hoffman did an excellent job as he played the role of the autistic brother, socially inept
with very poor social skills outside of his brother, but proved to be a gambler's dream in the casino or
anything to do with numbers. Studies have shown that a very common element for an autistic person is
intense concentration on a particular topic, almost to the exclusion of all else.
Autism is very similar to Asbergers Syndrome, although it is accepted that Asbergers is the milder form
of autism. Like autism, Asbergers is not a physical ailment but yet it can profoundly affect the manner
in which the person interacts socially and with the environment around them. In both cases, people
afflicted with these ailments tend to not be able to relate to the world around them, or in many cases
to even be aware of things happening around them. They are typically known to take things very
literally and at face value, lacking the social skills to "read between the lines" as we all learn to do
as we mature.
Other symptoms of autism are a lack of imagination, or the lack of having an ability to imagine a
different situation. Ideas and new concepts need to be repeated to people with autism over and over
again before they can begin to grasp the idea or concept, and even then it might not sink in, depending
on the severity level of the affliction.
In terms of social interactions, autistic people do not seem to be able to grasp the difference in
things said based on facial expressions or tone of voice. In the same vein, they are frequently unable
to add more meaning to what is said based on non-verbal cues or gestures, but instead tend to take
things quite literally. One very interesting aspect is that they are frequently unable to or are very
uncomfortable with making direct eye contact with someone who is speaking to them.
Autism is most frequently found in children and it is widely thought that many genetic factors play a
part in this in terms of abnormalities during brain development. There is significant disagreement
amongst scientists as to whether this occurs during pregnancy or shortly after birth. But in any event,
researchers are agreed that the earlier that a child is diagnosed with autism, the better off that child
will be in the steps that can be taken to work with the affliction and minimize its effects on the
growth of that child during the critical developmental years. Most children can be properly diagnosed
by age 2 or perhaps age 3, and your doctor can help you understand how to work with the child to
minimize the detrimental effects as much as possible.
While there is not a wholesale "cure" for autism such as a cast that can be put on a broken arm,
researchers are finding new ways to treat it. Some hopeful results have been seen by the use of certain
steroids that have proven to successfully reduce or remove autistic behavior.
Various studies have shown that certain proteins in the body appear to be more likely to cause a child
to be susceptible to acquiring autism than others. The problem with studies to date is that different
proteins have vastly different effects on different individuals, so it is very difficult to narrow down
exactly what proteins may be suspect. Interestingly enough, there is a significantly higher percentage
of boys with autistic spectrum disorders than girls, where some studies have found that ratio to be
higher than 3 to 1. Equally interesting is the fact that even with this ratio, girls with autistic
spectrum disorder tend to be much more severe. This is thought to be because girls normally have better
verbal skills at an earlier age than boys, whereas boys are better at visual and spatial tasks.
About the Author: Jon is a computer engineer and long-term world traveler who maintains many websites to pass along his knowledge and findings. You can read more about autism at his web site at http://www.autism-explained.com