Out of the many different mental health conditions that are usually diagnosed in early childhood, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) constitutes the majority of them. ASD is also called Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) and mind blindness; this mental health disorder causes severe abnormalities in communication. ASD also causes pervasive impairments in thinking, learning, feeling, language and expression. This disorder deprives the child from being able to relate with his/her surrounding stimuli.
Adults suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder often exhibit highly repetitive behavior; they often have other psychological disturbances. The range of severity of ASD might be from mild to severe; the range of the disorders is classified into five forms for medical understanding and treatment. The classifications of ASD are as follows:
Autism – The first form of ASD is named Autism, which is the most severe form of the disease.
Asperger’s syndrome – This form of ASD follows the Autism classification; people with Asperger’s syndrome have similar signs of Autism, but they have an advantage in learning language skills and communication abilities.
Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (POS-NOS) – This is a much milder form of ASD. It is tagged (Not Otherwise Specified) because the symptoms of this form of autism doesn’t fit into any one category.
Rett’s syndrome – This disorder was discovered in 1966 by Dr. Andreas Rett. This form of developmental disorder only occurs in girls. This disorder is believed to be caused by genetic mutation that occurs randomly; therefore, it is not believed to be inherited. Babies born with Rett’s syndrome are completely normal at birth, but they develop symptoms from 6 to 18 months of age. Their growth and development slows down; even their heads stop growing. Children living with Rett’s syndrome have short life spans; they live to be about 40 years old. Their muscles are fairly rigid, and have an unusual way of walking. The children with Rett’s syndrome quite often develop respiratory problems, which can be life threatening.
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder – This form of ASD is very rare; it occurs mainly in the male population. The baby is normal at birth and is okay until he is about 3 and-a-half years old. When the symptoms occur, they occur suddenly. The child loses his language and social skills. He may also lose control over his bowel and bladder. He may also start having seizures. His intelligence will drop to be very low. Once the symptoms of CDD manifest, it is fairly easy for the doctor to diagnose it.
Parents are usually the first to notice the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders (also called Autistic Disorders). The parents will notice that their child’s behavior seems different than other kids his/her age. The parents may be the first to notice that their child is unresponsive to most stimuli, or focuses on one item for long periods of time. He/she may seem overly withdrawn; he/she may also seem indifferent to other kids and adults.
When parents notice these odd behaviors in their children, they should be examined by their pediatrician as soon as possible. The pediatrician will be able to rule out or confirm a diagnosis of autistic disorders or other psychological disorders. Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorders is done in two levels. Level one is performed at the pediatrician’s office.
Babies should be babbling, gesturing and pointing by the time they reach 12 months of age. They should be saying words by the time they are 18 months old. If your child doesn’t make gestures, make noises, or even talk by the time he/she is a year-and-a-half old, he/she should be tested to see what the problem is.
When there is further suspicion that a child might have ASD, he/she will be sent for a second level of screening. The child should be tested for ASD if he/she does not play with others, lacks affective reciprocity, and lacks social reactions such as laughing, demanding, and imitating others. The second level of testing may include gene testing, CT, MRI and PET scanning.
Treatment for ASD will start after a final diagnosis is rendered and confirmed under the classifications of autistic disorders. Many systems have evolved where the treatment is now inclusive of teaching social skills, motor skills, thinking and reasoning skills. If there are any underlying conditions adding to the symptoms of the disorder, they will also need to be dealt with. Medication may be given to improve the brain activity. Special education programs and physical activity training are now accepted methods of treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
National Institute of Mental Health
Autism Spectrum Disorders