Archive for July 10th, 2008

Autism Can Now Be Diagnosed At Early Age

The number of children being diagnosed with autism has risen sharply during the past decade.  Until now, most children are diagnosed with the disorder between ages 3 and 4, and this is partially because parents do not notice or realize that there is something wrong before that time.  As a result, for many children, precious time is lost.

Researchers have recently revealed that there are methods of diagnosing children at a much younger age – as young as 4 to 6 months – based on various factors.  They also state that the earlier the diagnosis and intervention, the better chance the child has of less impairment from autism.  In fact, if autism is diagnosed early and intensive behavioral therapy as well as other treatment is initiated, it has been shown that the child has greater gains in IQ and language.  Behavioral therapy helps children with autism to stretch their comfort zone and do things such as looking at a person in the face and express emotions, which are often quite difficult for individuals with autism.

Researchers feel that just like learning anything else, the younger the child is, the easier it is for them to learn these things.  Even if the child is not definitively diagnosed at a few months old, keeping an eye on symptoms and addressing them with their doctor and/or a specialist sooner rather than later is essential in creating a much more positive outcome and a much more normal life for a child with autism.  They are using diagnostic tools involving certain eye movements to begin the diagnosis process in young children.

The Centers for Disease Control have said that 1 in every 150 children are diagnosed by the time they are 8 years old. This is 10 times the amount of children who were diagnosed in the same age bracket during the 1980’s, making it even more essential that children get treatment as early as possible.  By doing this, researchers say that symptoms will be reduced significantly.

The fact that time can be saved and treatment can be started early is good news and should provide hope for parents of children with autism, that their children will live more normal and fulfilling lives.

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Identifying and Understanding Autism Symptoms

Autism, which is actually part of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) isn’t always apparent immediately in a person.  Symptoms can usually be identified in a child when they are less than 3 years old, but not always. 

Some of the main symptoms of autism are impaired social, emotional and communication skills.  These are often manifested in very specific ways.  For example, individuals might have certain repetitive behaviors and have a great deal of difficulty changing their routine.  Learning, focusing, paying attention and other tasks can be difficult for individuals with autism and quite often they do these things in a way that is very different from other people.  As noted, these symptoms begin most often by the age of 3 and usually last throughout a person’s life.  There is no known cure to autism at this time.

One of the main issues for people with autism is extreme difficulty with social interaction.  When children are little – even in infancy – they usually enjoy  interaction with the world around them.  The marked lack of this type of interaction is quite evident in children with autism.  The usual smiles, finger grabbing, babbling and imitating words of the people around them is absent in toddlers with autism, which is a sign that the child should have medical attention.

As the child gets older, they don’t interact socially and may not have the desire to do so.  In addition, they often have great difficulty sharing and taking turns, thus making it more difficult to have friends.  They also might not want to be touched, cuddled or held – even by their parents – and have difficulty sharing feelings either by expressing them or listening to others express them, as it makes them feel uncomfortable interacting in this way.

Communication for people with autism is often difficult to varying degrees depending upon the individual.  Some individuals do quite well communicating while others communicate very little, if at all.  There are also issues with repetitive behaviors, motions and routines.  The repetitive behaviors and motions, such as flapping arms, can make it hard for individuals with autism to communicate or interact socially because others don’t know how to deal with these things.  Routines, though a stabilizing force can also be very rigid for a person with autism, and many people with autism cling tightly to their routines as a means of stability, but this also limits flexibility and can make it difficult to help them try different social interactions.

There are various symptoms of autism and ASD, and there is more and more research to help individuals and their families learn, grow and cope with the disorder.  With information and assistance the person with autism along with their family, can expand their world and the enjoyment they receive from it.

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