Outgrowing autism

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BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. (SOURCE: www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism)

 CAUSES: Autism is a physical condition linked to abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain. The exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown, but this is a very active area of research. There are probably a combination of factors that lead to autism. A number of other possible causes have been suspected, but not proven. They involve:

  • Digestive tract changes
  • The body's inability to properly use vitamins and minerals
  • Vaccine sensitivity

 (SOURCE: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/)

SYMPTOMS: Most parents of autistic children suspect that something is wrong by the time the child is 18 months old and seek help by the time the child is age two. Children with autism typically have difficulties in pretend play and social interaction. A number of children with an ASD do not like cuddling or being touched like other children do. ASD symptoms may vary from moderate to severe; the higher the severity of the autism, the more affected are a person's speaking skills. Many children with an ASD do not speak at all. People with autism will often repeat words or phrases they hear - an event called echolalia.  (SOURCE: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/; www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/autism)

TREATMENT: An early, intensive, appropriate treatment program will greatly improve the outlook for most young children with autism. Most programs will build on the interests of the child in a highly structured schedule of constructive activities. Visual aids are often helpful. Treatment is most successful when it is geared toward the child's particular needs. An experienced specialist or team should design the program for the individual child. A variety of therapies are available, including:

  • Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech-language therapy

(SOURCE: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/)

TREATMENT COST: Treatment is extremely expensive. Direct medical and nonmedical costs can add up to as much as $72,000 a year for someone with an extreme case of the disorder, and even $67,000 a year for those on the lower end of the spectrum. But there are a number of governmental financial resources available and some organizations provide scholarships, family grants, and other types of funding specifically to individuals with autism to help pay for autism-related expenses. The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism is committed to funding organizations that provide direct services and family support grants to individuals with autism and their families. (SOURCE: http://www.autismspeaks.org)