Autism has increasingly been making headlines in recent years and has sometimes found itself in the center of hot debate. How can the mere mention of a disorder stir so much controversy? Well, it is reported that today one in 50 children, aged 6-17, has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (CDC, 2013)- that is an alarming rate, and the incidence seems to be increasing.
So with such a high prevalence, the next thing you are probably wondering is what the culprit is. And here lies the problem at the center of disputes- a single cause of autism has yet to be pinpointed. As of now, researchers believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors are at play. There is a plethora of ongoing research into the causes and treatments of autism. It is the goal of this blog to keep you informed as well as clear up common misconceptions as best as we can.
To start, there is often a misunderstanding in the public of what autism is and whom it affects. Autism is actually a general term used to refer to a group of five Autism Spectrum Disorders, or ASDs, which affect brain development. Individuals with ASDs process sensory information differently than those with normal brain development. Autism spans all races, ethnicities, and social groups (Autism Science Foundation, 2013).
What are the different types of ASDs? Well a “spectrum disorder” means that symptoms can range from mild to severe (American Autism Association, 2013).
- “Classic autism” is known as autistic disorder, in which a child may have delays in the development of language, have problems communicating, lack social ability, have intellectual disabilities, or have unusual behaviors and interests.
- Asperger’s Syndrome presents itself with milder symptoms than autistic disorder and is characterized by unusual behaviors or interests as well as a lack of social skills. Those living with Asperger’s do not normally have intellectual deficits or communication issues.
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is when an individual shows some but not all of the symptoms of autistic disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome (American Autism Association, 2013). People with PDD-NOS may only lack social and communication skills.
- Rett syndrome is a very rare and severe form of autism occurring only in girls. It is caused by a mutation on the X chromosome.
- Child disintegrative disorder is another very rare and severe condition in which a child regresses in development after at least two years of completely normal development (Mayo Clinic, 2013).
At the heart of the attention towards ASDs is, of course, the people who live with them and endure the symptoms each and every day- and we want to keep it that way. There is no cure for ASDs, but there is an array of therapies available to help treat the symptoms. Treatments play a large role in allowing individuals to overcome certain symptoms and thrive in society. This blog hopes to be a source of valuable information and resources in an effort to shed light on the ongoing research. We all have a lot to learn about Autism Spectrum Disorders, so let's use this space to learn together.References:
American Autism Association. (2013). “What is autism?”[Handout]. New York, NY. Autism Science Foundation. (2013). “What is autism?” Retrieved fromhttp://www.autismsciencefoundation.org/what-is-autismCenters for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). “Autism spectrum disorders.” Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf.
Mayo Clinic staff. (2013). “Childhood disintegrative disorder.” Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childhood-disintegrative-disorder/DS00801