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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

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