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Getting To Know What Autism Is

Aug 17, 2007
Save if you have an autistic child yourself or know of one, many of you would probably get to know what autism is through watching the movie Rain Man. In the movie, Dustin Hoffman was brilliant as the autistic adult. The movie also highlighted many of the frustrations faced by families with dealing with an autistic child or adult. It sheds light on the daily realities that a high-functioning autistic person must face. Despite the movie, there are still many myths surrounding autism.

It is important to get to know what autism is as recent statistics show alarming figures indicating the prevalence of this condition. Autism is a brain disorder that affects an estimated 210,000 people in the United States. This comes up to approximately 1.5 per 1000 people. Many advocacy groups are alarmed that autism cases have risen exponentially since 1993, the first year that data for autism was submitted separately to the Department of Education. Their reactions are based on a staggering 800% increase of cases with autism in the last ten years. Despite this set of statistics, many are not convinced by the data. They believe that there has been a fundamental flaw in data collection. Reasons include the loosening of diagnostic criteria for autism as well as the fact that the figures were understated years ago as hardly anyone knew what autism was then.

Autism is an umbrella term that refers to a broad range of developmental delays and disorders. It is usually first noticed in a child when he or she is three years of age. Parents of autistic children will be saddened to find out that autism is a lifelong condition.

Many years ago, autism symptoms are often attributed to cold parenting or unloving parents. Medical doctors no longer believe that there is any psychological cause for autism. Despite numerous studies, there is no known cause for autism. There are many that say that environmental factors are major contributors.

The DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition) lays out a complex criteria for diagnosing autism in children and adults, but in general the symptoms of autism include:

- Delays (or the loss of) physical, social and language skills.
- Abnormal reactions to sensation
- Speech and language delays or abnormalities while associated thinking skills may be present
- Abnormal ways of relating to people, objects and events.

If you have just discovered that your child is autistic, you may find it challenging to deal with the amount of information and myths that are floating around. Additionally, there are plenty of social and emotional issues that you have to handle. For instance, you may even find that others have a bias towards you if they still believe in autism comes from bad parenting. You may also feel bewildered by the vast number of treatments that are available to autistic children and yet at the same time, bitterly disappointed by the lack of understanding shown by mainstream schools and medical facilities.

Personally, I did not have much support and help when my daughter first got diagnosed by a psychologist. The psychologist did not present me with any comforting thoughts nor recommend alternative therapies. I have been largely left to my own devices to search for appropriate treatments and therapies for my child. What I do find useful to share from my own experience is that early detection is of great importance. Knowing what autism is and what to look out for helps in early detection and identification of this condition.
About the Author
Sandra Kim Leong writes about her experience in dealing with her daugther, who is diagnosed as being on the austim disorder spectrum. She shares about diet plans as well as other therapies that have helped her daugther progress by leaps and bounds. Read her blog at http://www.autismdietplan.com .
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