Autism – Pervasive developmental disorder is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication a developmental disorder that appears to start before in the first three years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.
Autism is a physical condition linked to abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain.
Genetic factors such as identical twins are much more likely than fraternal twins or siblings to both have autism. Similarly, language abnormalities are more common. Chromosomal abnormalities and other nervous system problems are also more common in families with autism.
A number of other possible causes have been suspected. They involve:
- Digestive tract changes
- Mercury poisoning
- The body’s inability to properly use vitamins and minerals
- Vaccine sensitivity
Children Have Autism
Autism affects boys 3 – 4 times more often than girls. Family income, education, and lifestyle do not seem to affect the risk of autism.
The term “autism” now includes a wider spectrum of children. For example, a child who is diagnosed with high-functioning autism today may have been thought to simply be odd or strange 30 years ago.
Other pervasive developmental disorders include:
- Asperger syndrome Rett syndrome
- Childhood dis integrative disorder
- Pervasive developmental disorder – also called atypical autism
Children with autism typically have difficulties in:
- Pretend play
- Social interactions
- Verbal and nonverbal communication
Some children with autism appear normal before age 1 or 2 and then suddenly “regress” and lose language or social skills they had previously gained. This is called the regressive type of autism.
People with autism may:
- Be overly sensitive in sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste (for example, they may refuse to wear “itchy” clothes and become distressed if they are forced to wear the clothes)
- Have unusual distress when routines are changed
- Perform repeated body movements
- Show unusual attachments to objects
Symptoms may vary from moderate to severe.
Communication Problems May Include:
- Cannot start or maintain a social conversation
- Communicates with gestures instead of words
- Develops language slowly or not at all
- Does not adjust gaze to look at objects that others are looking at
- Does not refer to self correctly (for example, says “you want water” when the child means “I want water”)
- Repeats words or memorized passages
- Uses nonsense rhyming
- Does not make friends
- Does not play interactive games
- May not respond to eye contact or smiles, or may avoid eye contact
- May treat others as if they are objects
- Prefers to spend time alone
Response to sensory information:
- Does not startle at loud noises
- Has heightened or low senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste
- May find normal noises painful and hold hands over ears
- Rubs surfaces, mouths or licks objects
- Seems to have a heightened or low response to pain
- Doesn’t imitate the actions of others
- Prefers solitary or ritualistic play
- “Acts up” with intense tantrums
- Gets stuck on a single topic or task
- Has a short attention span
- Has very narrow interests
- Is overactive or very passive
- Shows aggression to others or self
- Shows a strong need for sameness
- Uses repetitive body movements
Stereotype is repetitive movement, such as hand flapping, making sounds, head rolling, or body rocking.
Compulsive behavior is intended, such as arranging objects in stacks or lines.
Sameness is resistance to change.
Ritualistic behavior involves an unvarying pattern of daily activities, such as an unchanging menu or a dressing ritual.
Restricted behavior is limited in focus, interest, or activity, such as preoccupation with a single television program, toy, or game.
Self-injury includes movements that injure or can injure the person, such as eye poking, skin picking, hand biting, and head banging.
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