Dear Readers, I would like to give you as much information as possible on the topic of Autism. You are currently reading Part One. Please check back next week for Part Two.
Dear Dr. Beal: My son was just diagnosed with Autism. What does that mean? Did I do something wrong? My husband is blaming me because he feels I waited too long to go to the doctor. I was almost five months pregnant before I was seen by an OBGYN doctor. I really didn’t know I was pregnant.
Signed, Guilty Parent
Please don’t feel guilty about your child’s diagnosis. There is no way you could control if your child would have or would not have autism. Yes, prenatal care is very important, but it is not the reason that your child has developed autism. It is difficult for some people to accept that their child may not be perfect and they look for someone to blame. Your child’s mental and emotional health should not be a blaming battle but a time to come together to decide what is in the best interest of your son. I would suggest that you and your husband educate yourself about this disorder and pull together for the best interest of your son. The Center of Disease Control estimated in 2014 that nearly 1 in 59 children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. ASD is found in individuals around the world, regardless of race, culture, or economic background. It has been reported to occur more in boys than in girls, with a 4 to 1 ratio. People who have Autism have difficulty with communicating. It is noted that about 40% of children with ASD are non verbal. About 25%-30% of children are able to develop language skills. There is difficulty with interactions with other people, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors, and symptoms that may interfere with the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life.
The Diagnostic and Statical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM-5) recognizes five different ASD subtypes, or specifiers,
- With or without accompanying intellectual impairment
- With or without accompanying language impairment
- Associated with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor
- Associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder
- With catatonia
Symptoms of Autism
The signs of Autism usually appear around the ages of 2 or 3 years old, but it can appear as early as 18 months. The symptoms are usually divided into two categories: problems with communication and social interaction and restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviors.
A person with ASD might exhibit some of the following signs. The list below does not include all of the signs and symptoms.
- Do not respond to their name when called
- Do not play pretend games
- Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
- Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
- Give unrelated answers to questions
- Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
- Delayed speech
There is usually a lack or disruption in social skills
Examples of social issues related to ASD
- Does not respond to name by 12 months of age
- Avoids eye contact
- Prefers to play alone
- Does not understand personal space boundaries
Can range from nonverbal to verbal.
- Delayed Speech
- Repeats words
- Does not point or respond to pointing
- Talks in a flat, robot-like, or singing voice
Even though the signs are clear, doctors cannot figure out a single cause of Autism, but doctors believe that genetics may be a factor to children with autism. For some children, however, ASD can be associated with a genetic disorder such as, Rett spectrum disorder or fragile X syndrome.
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“Good Mental Health Equals Mental Wealth”