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Recent research released by the Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) shows that more than 500,000 people have been diagnosed with the autism disorder and 15 out of every 10,000 children born are affected by autism (Goehner, 2012). The number of autism cases has dramatically escalated since 1980s. Knowledge about autism is therefore critical to curbing this type of disorder among the USA children (Goehner, 2012). This paper seeks to explore autism in details. The paper will address what autism is, its causes, symptoms, brain chemistry of people with autism disorder, treatment, and the medical labeling of the people with autism disorder.

What is Autistic Disorder?

Autistic disorder is a neurological complex development of brain impairment that always manifests in children below the age of three years (Amaral, 2011). Autistic disorder is commonly known as autism or mind-blindness. The disorder always affects information processing in the brain of a child through disorganizing the connection between nerve cells and synapses (Amaral, 2011). Autism is one of the three recognized brain disorders in the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), together with Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Development Disorder, otherwise specified as PDD-NOS (Goldstein et al., 2009).

Causes of Autistic Disorder

So far, scientists do not know the specific causes of autism. Other scientists hold the opinion that autistic disorder is caused by genetic disorders in the family of the victim (Reynolds, 2011). They argue that the gene changes and mutation are responsible for development of autism (Reynolds, 2011).

Most of the medical researchers have shown that autism is caused by a combination of autism risk genes and distinct environmental conditions that influence early development of the brain (Amaral, 2011). The distinct environmental conditions include maternal sicknesses during pregnancy, problems associated with the delivery process, advanced age at the time of conception, and any illness that might deprive an infant of oxygen delivery to the brain (Amaral, 2011). Most of the studies show that environmental conditions do not exclusively cause autism. Rather, environmental factors increase chances of development of this brain disorder in infants (Goehner, 2012).

Common Symptoms of the Autism

Autistic disorder among the infants is characterized by social interaction impairment, communication impairment, restricted interests, and tendency to engage in repetitive behavior. 

 Generally, most developing infants at the age 1 to 3 years are social in nature. They respond to voices, respond to their names, they smile, and even gaze at faces. On the other hand, children with autism disorder convey queer behaviors such as failure to respond to their names, low/lack of interest in people, lack of response to physical contacts, failure to interact with other children, and usually eye contact avoidance (Goehner, 2012).

Communication impairment somehow affects speech and delayed use of body language (like pointing to objects) among children. Besides, adults who have autistic disorder always have repetitive way of speaking (Goldstein et al., 2009). Besides, autism is associated with restricted and repetitive behavior. People with autism often display various forms of repetitive movement such as finger flapping, head rolling, and body rocking. Infants with autism always arrange objects in line and are resistant to change. They also like sticking to a single toy or a single type of a game (Reynolds, 2011). Other less common symptoms include sensory abnormalities, poor muscle tone, unusual eating habit, and allergy to loud noise and bright light (Reynolds, 2011).

Brain Chemistry of People with Autistic Disorder

The brain chemistry of people suffering from autism disorder is not well understood. Pathophysiology and neuropsychological mechanisms have been drawn to explain brain structures and processes associated with autism (Goehner, 2012). Pathophysiologists believe that autism disorder is caused by developmental factors that affect the normal functioning of brain systems and also perturb the timing of brain development (Goehner, 2012).

There are scientists who claim that there is a close link between serotonin neurochemical and its genetic differences in transportation. This linkage accounts for autism (Goehner, 2012). Patients with autism spectrum disorder have high vasoactive intestinal peptide (V.I.P.), calcitonin gene-related peptide (C.G.R.P.), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (B.D.N.F.), and neuotrophin-4 (NT4) types of proteins in their brains (Goldstein et al 2009).

Neuropsychologists only present the relationship between the autistic brain and the resulting behavior. Most of the cognitive researches have thus linked autism and behavior to theorize about mental and behavioral processes. Hence, neuropsychologists do not clearly show the brain chemistry of individuals with autistic disorder (Reynolds, 2011).

Treatment of Autism Disorder

Researchers have shown that, when treating autism, each child or adult is unique on his/her own. Therefore, any intervention plan should be geared towards addressing specific need of a specific patient. There are two ways of treating autistic patients. These are behavioral and medicinal treatments. Both can be applied to ensure the better chances of a patient’s success (Amaral, 2011).

Behavioral treatments are close to educative and therapeutic ways of treatment. Here, people suffering from autism are taught social skills, motor skills, play, communication, academic, thinking/cognitive skills, and community living skills. Most of these education-structured ways of treatment aim at developing social, speaking, self-care, and work-related skills (Amaral, 2011).

Medication, as a way of treating autism, involves mental health professionals offering social skills training, family therapies, counseling patients and their families about their options, and suggesting the best available treatment for the given autistic patient. Professionals also conduct behavioral therapies such as floor-time, pivotal response therapy, and verbal behavior therapy (Reynolds, 2011).

For children who have not started attending schools, the National Research Council recommended to give 25 hours to both behavioral development and therapeutic interventions.  Among the school-going children, the intervention should be done during school hours. Even in school, troubled children should undergo a short period of therapeutic interventions (Goehner, 2012).

Personal Attitude towards People with Autistic Disorders

Any form of chronic mental illness does not just afflict the patient. Instead, it is also a challenge to the person’s family as a whole (Goehner, 2012). Autism is one of such illnesses. Autism is often accompanied by various anti-social, disruptive behaviors. Many parents and families who are living with autism disorder patients often suffer from stigma. But in my own opinion, this is because of a lack of public awareness and understanding of autism.

Autistic disorder can be easily mistaken by the society for any other mental disorder, such as articulation disorder, apraxia, seizures, and GI problems. It can also be seen as a curse for some sin committed earlier (Goehner, 2012). One cannot blame the society since the biological and medical issues surrounding autism are very dynamic and complex. These biological, social, psychological, and medical dynamics can easily lead to misdiagnoses and over-diagnoses. This is partly due to misunderstanding.   

A clear understanding of autism disorder can help eliminate all misunderstandings and stigmatization of autistic people by society. However, the medical labeling of people with autistic disorder should be encouraged, because it will give teachers an easier experience dealing with such students. Even the society as a whole will not be surprised to see some strange behaviors on their friends.  I would thus advocate for patients’ self-disclosure, enabling them to benefit from various interventions against the disease. However, this must be followed by active campaigns that sensitize the society against stigmatization, discrimination, and stereotypical statements and attitudes towards patients with autism.

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