The Complexity of Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is a complex disease that affects the developmental and speech capabilities of adolescents that carries with them to adulthood. It is distinctly apparent when the child is still very young and able to be diagnosed from about a year and a half old onwards. Although the disease cannot be pinpointed to one specific area of the brain, it is believed to stem from a glitchy gene that makes the child more susceptible to developing autism, oxygen deprivation while in they are in womb affecting certain development, or an overall imbalance of the chemicals that are impactful in forming the brain’s functioning parts.

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The history of the word autism predates back to the Greek word “autos”, which means “self”. The word gained traction in the late 19th century from Dr. John Down who was heavily researching the topic, but had not yet called it autism. Within the next fifty years, this disease went through multiple name changes such as “Kanner’s Syndrome” or “Asperger’s Syndrome.” Soon thereafter, the disease was then referred to as autism and was associated with children who exhibited peculiar behavior through late speech, withdrawn and distant personalities, and slower progress than the average child of that day.To determine whether a child has autism in this modern day in age, drawing blood and running tests for them are not enough – a doctor has to make a diagnosis as well.

The process involves a developmental screening which scans for abnormalities in developmental parts of the child’s brain, and then a doctor goes through a comprehensive diagnostic. With the diagnostic, the doctor takes into account all the factors possibly contributing: the child is late or has not even started speaking yet, tends to repeat behaviors/motions unnecessarily, and the patient’s overall social interaction between other people. If the child does not meet certain standards in these categories, then the doctor can confidently say the child has autism and then place them, based on the severity, on the autism spectrum.The individuals who have autism range from low functioning to high functioning. Of course, autism is different for each person that has it, so the needs for treatment differ.  

The effects can vary in severity which could be something as small as minor speech disadvantages, or the other extreme of having an immensely difficult time speaking or functioning without special aid. In today’s current stage of medicine, there is no “cure all” to alleviate autism completely from an individual, however, there are many various ways to lessen the effects. Within about the last two decades, we have further enhanced what we currently know about autism and the effects it shows. “Research into autism spectrum disorders has increased significantly over the past 15 years and has resulted in the availability of evidence-based treatment models” (Tulley, 2). Therapy is a great way to specifically help the individual. They have the chance to learn at their own pace, they meet goals that are set each day for them, and they get detailed and focused attention towards them. Through the therapy, they work with speech and the areas they are weak in, and create an atmosphere where they can fully thrive. Their social skills improve, their motor skills improve, and their overall function gets better and better.What makes the disease difficult to combat is that it is usually coupled with another disease/disorder. “Many persons with autism have additional medical conditions such as sleep disturbance, seizures and gastrointestinal (GI) distress. Addressing these conditions can improve attention, learning and related behaviors” (Autism Speaks, 1).

Regarding the disease in general, scientists have determined that autism does in fact come from in the genes. In depth analysis of the genes thought to contribute to autism have been underway. “Two such studies have uncovered 60 genes that have a greater than 90 percent chance of contributing to ASD among 500 or more genes associated with ASDs overall  [Ronemus et al, (2014) Nature Reviews Genetics 15, 133-141] (Burns, 2). Although autism is a widely known disease that is being well studied, it is determined that only about one percent of the world’s population is affected by autism. After researching autism spectrum disorder, I learned about the effects that are involved in this disease and how complex it really is. Although it affects a small percent of the population, I think that increased awareness would be nothing but beneficial. I think it is truly interesting how doctors can diagnose this disease at such an early age, and how they combat it as well.

Additionally, it was incredible to read stories of those with autism and how they transcended above their disease limits and lived a courageous and fulfilling life. I have seen individuals with autism in my life and have noticed how blissfully happy they seem to be, which shows me how well they, and their family, deal with the disease. Altogether, the topic of autism interested me and now I feel quite a bit more knowledgeable on the subject. I would very much be interested in meeting other individuals who lay on different ends of the autism spectrum – high to low – and hear their stories on how they have dealt with the disease. Autism may only affect a small percentage of the population, and because of this, the vast amount not affected can turn their efforts towards helping and improving the life quality of those with this disease.

Works Cited

Facts and Statistics. (2015, August 26). Retrieved April 9, 2018, from http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/facts-and-statistics/What Is Autism? (2012, May 31). Retrieved April 9, 2018, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autismAutism Spectrum Australia. (n.d.). Retrieved April 9, 2018, from https://www.autismspectrum.org.au/content/characteristicsBurns, M., Ph.D. (2016, March 28). 4 New Research Findings About Autism. Retrieved April 9, 2018, from https://www.scilearn.com/blog/4-new-research-findings-about-autismHow Is Autism Treated? (2012, July 25). Retrieved April 9, 2018, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatmentHistory of Autism. (n.d.). Retrieved April 9, 2018, from http://projectautism.org/history-of-autismAutism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). (2015, February 26). Retrieved April 9, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html

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