a compilation of informations, researches, studies , observations and analysis about autism to help in early intervention.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Diagnosing Autism

Autism Resources

Diagnosing Autism
Currently, there is no single medical test that will definitively diagnose autism. Instead, the diagnosis is made on the basis of observable characteristics of the individual.

Because most children start showing symptoms of autism at about 18-24 months, British researchers have developed a screening tool called the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers . The CHAT (which takes five minutes to administer) has been shown to be highly effective in predicting which children will develop autism, PDD, Asperger's or other developmental syndromes.

Before embarking on any sort of diagnosis, however, it is important to rule out possible physical causes for an individual's behavior. Please consult your physician or pediatrician if you have concerns about a family member or friend.

Official Diagnostic Criteria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) was revised in 1994. Slight changes were made to the diagnostic criteria for autism, and the category of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) which includes autism was reclassified from a "long-term stable disorder with poor prognosis" to the more transient "temporary episodic clinical disorder." This positive move reflects the facts that there is a possibility of improvement with intervention, and that symptoms of these disorders vary in intensity.

The specific diagnoses used for autism and related disorders are:

Autistic disorder (classic autism): Onset occurs before age three. The child shows impairment in the three areas of observable symptoms: difficulty in communication, social interaction and repetitive, stereotyped patterns of behavior.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder: The child develops normally in all areas for the first two years, then shows a significant loss of previously acquired skills.

Rett's Disorder (also known as Rett Syndrome): Found almost exclusively in females, the child achieves normal development for the first 5 months, then loses previously acquired communication skills and the purposeful use of the hands. These losses are soon followed by other areas of deterioration, including apraxia (loss of ability to control complex muscle movements), gait disturbances and sometimes seizures.

Asperger's Disorder (also known as Asperger's Syndrome): Children with this disorder demonstrate average to above-average in intelligence and no significant delay in language, but show impairment in social interactions and have a restricted range of interests and activities.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (atypical autism): In the case of PDD-NOS, there is severe impairment in specified behaviors, but the child does not meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis.


Friday, January 21, 2005

Symptoms of Autism

The symptoms vary greatly but follow a general pattern. Not all symptoms are present in all autistic children.

Autistic infants may act relatively normal during their first few months of life before becoming less responsive to their parents and other stimuli. They may have difficulty with feeding or toilet training; may not smile in recognition of their parents' faces, and may put up resistance to being cuddled.

As they enter toddlerhood, it becomes increasingly apparent that these children have a world of their own. They do not play with other children or toys in the normal manner, rather they remain aloof and prefer to play alone.

Verbal and nonverbal communication skills, such as speech and facial expressions, develop peculiarly. Symptoms range from mutism to prolonged use of echoing or stilted language. When language is present, it is often concrete, unimaginative, and immature.

Another symptom of autism is an extreme resistance to change of any kind. Autistic children tend to want to maintain established behavior patterns and a set environment. They develop rituals in play, oppose change (such as moving furniture), and may become obsessed with one particular topic.

Other behavioral abnormalities that may be present are: staring at hands or flapping arms and hands, walking on tiptoe, rocking, tantrums, strange postures, unpredictable behavior and hyperactivity.

An autistic child has poor judgment and is therefore always at risk for danger. For instance, an autistic child may run into a busy street without any sign of fear.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

What is autism?

Autism is a complex developmental disorder that typically affects a person's ability to
communicate, form relationships, and respond appropriately to the environment. Autism results from a neurological disorder that impedes normal brain development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills.

Autism knows no racial, ethnic, social, or economic boundaries, and the overall incidence rate is
relatively consistent around the globe. There is no definitive cause or cure for this lifelong
disorder, which affects four times as many boys as girls and usually manifests itself during the
first three years of life.

Often referred to as a "spectrum disorder," the symptoms and characteristics of autism can
present themselves in a variety of combinations, to varying degrees of severity, from mild to
severe. The phrase “autism spectrum disorders” (ASD) refers to a broad definition of autism
including Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), Rett's syndrome, Asperger syndrome, and
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

People with autism process and respond to information in unique ways. Common traits of autism include:

• Resistance to change
• Odd repetitive motions
• Preference for being alone
• Aversion to cuddling
• Avoidance of eye contact
• Inappropriate attachments to objects
• Hyper-activity or under-activity
• Over- or under-active sensory responsiveness
• Uneven gross/fine motor skills, such as difficulty grasping objects, or
dressing themselves
• Repeating words or monologues
• Laughing, crying, or showing distress for unapparent reasons
• Unresponsive to verbal cues
• Tantrums, and possible aggressive and/or self-injurious behaviour

Like all individuals, however, those with autism have unique personalities and combinations of
autistic characteristics. Many children and adults with autism have or develop the ability to make eye contact, show affection, smile, laugh, and build verbal or non-verbal language skills, but generally in different ways than typically-developing individuals.

Since autism was first described more than 60 years ago, the body of related knowledge has
grown substantially. However, a vast majority of the public, including many medical and
educational professionals, is still unaware of how autism affects people and how to effectively
support and interact with affected individuals.

While it isn’t possible to “outgrow” or to be “cured” of autism, symptoms can be lessened and
skills can be acquired with treatment and support. Geneva Centre for Autism provides just that – and in doing so, gives hope to thousands of families in need.