Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism, Asperger's, Pervasive Developmental Disorder

What is ASD?

Autism Spectrum Disorders relate to a group of neurobiological disorders that affect social interaction and communication, as well as behaviours and interests. ASD consists of “traditional” autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). These are related to pervasive developmental disorder: a condition that affects early childhood development of communication, social behaviour, motor function, and language acquiring skills.

How is it caused?

From the 1940's to the 1960's, it was believed that autism was caused by childhood emotional abuse. This theory was debunked by the 70's when researchers discovered that this was not the case. Genetic and environmental conditions are the potential causes of this disorder. Due to genetic buildup differences between genders, males are 3-4 times more likely to have autism than females. Two environmental factors that can cause autism include infections during pregnancy, and usage of certain antidepressants while carrying. Rubella virus, for example, can affect the developing child’s brain in early pregnancy, leading to neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and schizophrenia. Older parents (40 and over) are more likely to have an autistic child. One important genetic predisposition involves a region on chromosome 15. This is deleted or duplicated in autistic children, and defects around this area relate to similar developmental disorders. Another rumour behind the cause of autism are chemicals in some vaccines (eg, Thimerosal) that aggravate the developing mind.

Symptoms

Symptoms of autism are mainly related to communication and interpersonal skill. They include, but are not limited to:
  • Lack of interest in some activities, especially those that involve imagination
  • Weak social skills (ex., lack of eye contact or speech in general)
  • Very little empathy and preference for solitude
  • Resists change in routine, may result in aggression
  • Difficulties expressing needs
  • Troubles in sensory (ex., hypersensitive to sound, strange reactions to the five senses)
  • Unusual motions such as hand flapping or repeating words
  • Severely autistic children may be violent toward others or self due to lack of communication
  • Obsessions with certain objects/topics, narrow interests
  • Poor motor skills (ex., clumsy movements, strange posture)
  • Gastrointestinal problems
Symptoms vary widely by type since many areas of the brain are affected by autism, such as the amygdala. (affects emotional responses, hence volatile behaviour in more severe cases)

What Autism Looks Like

Trying To Cope With A Severely Autistic Child
This video shows a mother trying to cope with her 20 year old son with severe autism. Take note of his lack of verbal communication and destructive behaviour.

Treatments and Remedies

Classic autism can be diagnosed as early as 12 months of age, but there is no cure for ASD. However, there is a list of therapies that can alleviate the behavioural problems caused by autism. These range from individual skill building to special education, and results in greater improvement when started earlier. In some cases, medication can be taken for secondary mental issues such as anxiety and depression. The list of known methods goes as follows:
  • some solutions linked toward gastrointestinal problems, as autistic people often have this. Improves attention and learning.

  • ABA (applied behaviour analysis): one-on-one learning sessions that teach the child to slowly get used to natural settings, last 30-40 hours per week.

  • DIR (Floortime model): parents or therapists “play” along with the child to develop imagination and cognitive skills

  • Son-Rise program: not focusing on deficiencies and putting parents/therapists in the eyes of the child

  • diet changes removing gluten (found in grains) and casein (found in dairy)

  • “pet therapy”: domesticated animals are used in assisting autistic children since they relate more to animals than humans

  • chelation: usage of creams, medication and injections to rid body of metals that aggravate autism

Works Cited


  • "Autism." Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. <http://school.eb.com/levels/high/article/11351#282103.toc>.
  • "Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)." Britannica School.Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. <http://school.eb.com/levels/high/article/474476>.
  • Ewing, Rachel. "Child's Autism Risk Accelerates with Mother's Age Over 30." DrexelNOW. Drexel University, 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.
  • Norris, Sonya. "Potential Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders." Parliament of Canada. Library of Parliament, 23 Feb. 2006. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

  • Parks, Peggy J. Autism. San Diego: ReferencePoint, 2009. Print.
  • Snedden, Robert. Explaining Autism. Mankato: Smart Apple Media, 2010. Print.

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