Posts filed under 'Common Symptoms'

Autism, Crowds and Being Lost

Those of us who are aware of autism and its symptoms know that individuals with autism often have a hard time dealing with social situations and interacting with others.  They can become frightened or overwhelmed when encountering strangers.

If an individual with autism is in a crowd – such as in a mall or an amusement park or airport – and gets lost or confused, there are numerous ramifications.  For instance, the individual might hide because they are so frightened or confused. 

There are other situations, too, for instance, the individual might not be totally aware of what is happening, or even aware of the fact that people are looking for them.  Add some security guards or police to the mix and there is a potential for things to go very wrong very fast – not because it is anyone’s fault, but because there is a gap in communication and there are too many unknowns on both sides.

There have been numerous articles lately about individuals with autism who have been tasered by the police because they did not heed the command to stop whatever they were doing nor did they speak when spoken to.  This is a critical issue because many individuals with autism are not able to speak, and, as a result, if an officer asks them a question, they would not be able to answer.  Too often, the police are not trained in this area; therefore, they are not able to identify the fact that an individual has autism.  When the individual does not answer, the officer or officers might think that the individual is being disrespectful and that’s when many of the problems start that lead to tasering and the like.  In situations where the individual with autism tries to run away to hide, the results are often the same.

It is important that these issues be dealt with through training for officers and the public, as well as assistance for parents, family and caregivers of individuals with autism.  Officers need to know how to identify individuals with autism and treat them with care, as well as knowing how to contact parents. 

It has been suggested that individuals with autism have identification available that is similar to medical identification bracelets or necklaces – that are large enough to be seen – and wear them when out so as to avoid confusion or unwarranted attacks by officers or others.  This – or something like it – may or may not be the right idea for you or your family, depending on the circumstances and the way that you feel about it.

It is clear that some sort of training and assistance is warranted so that in the face of these types of situations, the least amount of trauma takes place for all persons involved.

Add comment July 31st, 2008

Five Types of Autism

Autism is a disease that affects about 1 in every 150 children.  Symptoms usually appear when children are very young and are usually diagnosed by the time children are about 3 years old.  There are cases when diagnosis comes much later, however, the younger a child is when diagnosed, the greater chance they have at overcoming or at least controlling their symptoms.

The five types of autism are part of what is called the autism spectrum disorder.  They all have their own set of symptoms upon which a diagnosis can be made.  In addition, all individuals with autism are unique and so are their symptoms. 

There are various treatments for autism which include behavioral therapy, medication, education and even special diet.  These treatments can be used alone or in combination with one another depending on the child and the symptoms.

The most common type of autism is Autistic Disorder.  It affects learning, behavior and socialization and can be mild to severe. 

Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is a milder form of Autistic Disorder and is often used to diagnose children whose symptoms do not fit into the typical categories of autism.

Asperger Syndrome is often considered “high functioning” autism, since its symptoms are much milder than Autistic Disorder symptoms.  In fact, children with Asperger Syndrome usually begin speaking at the same age as other children speak.  They quite often have above average intelligence.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is a unique type of autism where the child begins to learn language and other skills normally and then begins to lose those skills and becomes autistic.  In many cases the child loses only part of the skills, but in other cases all of the skills are lost.

Rett syndrome is also a unique type of autism which is only found in girls.  They begin to develop normally but gradually lose social skills and communication between the ages of 1 and 4.  One obvious symptom is that hand use gradually declines into repetitive motions only. 

Much research is being conducted to try to develop effective ways to address and manage these symptoms, and there has been success in some areas.  With autism becoming more well-known there are concerted efforts being made to address all 5 types of autism continue trying to find answers to lingering questions regarding causes and treatment for all five types.

Add comment July 29th, 2008

Mike Savage Lives up to His Name

There is a fury going on about Mike Savage, the radio talk-show host who has cast his very negative and demeaning opinions about children with autism out over the airwaves. 

Savage made some ignorant and hurtful comments that have parents, family, friends, advocates and supporters of individuals – especially children – with autism in an uproar.  For starters, he called autism a “hoax” and said that children with autism were simply “brats”.  He added that bad parenting is to blame for a “fraudulent” epidemic of autism.

Besides being insensitive and insulting, these comments could not be further from the truth.  In reality, autism, affects 1 in every 150 children to one degree or another.  It can be very painful both physically and emotionally and can take a huge toll in many ways upon the family of a child with autism.

Savage’s comments have drawn outrage from families dealing with autism and from the National Autism Association (NAA).  They – and families with children who have autism throughout the country – are demanding a retraction of Savage’s statements, a public apology and a show to be aired explaining the truth about autism.  There is a demand that experts be involved with the show regarding autism, both in an advisory capacity and as guests.

It is unfortunate that at a time when society is being called upon to be more tolerant and to learn more about all disabilities – including autism – an individual, such as Mike Savage has the means to help educate and enlighten people, but instead has used those very airwaves to create hurt, misinformation and disrespect. 

Ignorance of a subject is one thing, especially if an individual takes the time to learn about the subject.  However, using one’s position to hurt others is uncalled for and unkind. 

Mike Savage has the opportunity to use some humility, swallow his pride and do the right thing.  Time will tell if this will happen.  The nation is watching.

Add comment July 24th, 2008

How do Doctors Identify Autism?

There is a lot of talk going around lately about what autism is, what it isn’t and whether it exists at all.  We’ve gone through this for years, many times before, involving other unexplained medical ailments.  We still do.  Whether it’s fibromyalgia, PMS or any other ailment that sounds like a catchall or an excuse, there are still those ailments that we are dealing with, we keep hearing about what is, what isn’t and what might not be at all.

Autism, along with these illnesses, is very much a real disorder that researchers and physicians have learned much more about in recent years.  It has become much easier for doctors to diagnose autism and to treat it. 

Doctors identify autism by studying the child and the symptoms over a period of time, based on findings regarding initial symptoms.  Researchers are trying to find new treatments and improve current treatments for children with autism.  There is more information being discovered regarding genetics and some encouraging newer information regarding various therapies that are helping children with autism on a long-term basis. 

In fact, there are various therapies that have been helping children with autism show improvement in many areas from language skills, interacting with others and learning, in general.  Researchers, educators, physicians, and others are working feverishly to deal with the symptoms that doctors are finding and find ways to diminish them, making life easier and more productive for children with autism and their families.

Basic autism symptoms have not changed over time, but the way doctors diagnose and treat them – including the genetics of the disease – has been changing.  There is more information being discovered all the time.  With continued research there is increased hope that this disease will be understood much better, helping individuals with autism to live more normal and much richer lives.

Add comment July 24th, 2008

Recognizing Common Signs of Autism

There are common and not-so-common signs of autism.  The most common signs and symptoms of autism include difficulty interacting socially, problems with verbal and non-verbal communication and repetitive behaviors with very limited interests.  All of these symptoms can range from very mild to extreme and disabling.

The most significant symptom of autism is social interaction that is impaired or becomes impaired by the child withdrawing. The child seems to start out normally and withdraw over time. This is usually noticeable to the parents as it becomes a strong personality factor.  For instance, many children with autism do not respond to their name and do not  make much eye contact with other people.

Other symptoms that are not as well known include beginning to speak much later than other children and often referring to themselves by name rather than using the words ”I” or “me.”  They also have difficulty interacting and playing with other children and sometimes speak in a voice that sounds sort of as if they are singing. 

Most children with autism do not like to be cuddled, hugged or even touched too much.  Research has found that this is because many children with autism have a very reduced sensitivity to pain but their body compensates with an abnormally high sensitivity to sound, touch or other sensory stimulation. 

Children with autism also have a high incidence of co-existing conditions including Tourette’s syndrome, tumors on the brain, mental retardation, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder (add).  Between 20% and 30% of  children with autism also develop epilepsy by the time they are adults, however, research has not provided a specific reason for this.

Though many of the reasons for autism are not clear, some of the latest studies have found that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are involved.  Researchers have found more answers and better treatment as studies have continued, and there is more and more indication that proper identification as early as possible may result in better treatment and marked improvement for many children with autism.

Add comment July 17th, 2008

Illinois: Autism Should be Covered by Insurance

Autism is a complex disorder.  Not only is it unclear exactly what causes it, it also manifests itself differently in each individual with the diagnosis.  In addition, like many other diseases and disorders, there are varying degrees of autism, from “high functioning” to the other end of the spectrum where individuals have severe symptoms that take a tremendous amount of time and effort to work with, often without yielding a tremendous amount of results or improvement.  As a result, autism remains poorly understood and has cost many thousands of families their life savings.

The Governor of one state – the state of Illinois – wants to do something about that.  To try to help families get diagnosis and treatment for family members with autism – especially their children – Governor Blagojevich is asking insurance companies to cover children with autism up to $36,000 in benefits per year and provide for unlimited office visits until they reach age 21.

The Governor, who stated that 26,000 children have been diagnosed with autism in his state of Illinois, made it clear that he felt that it was important to help families who were doing what they were supposed to do.  When a family is working hard, paying taxes and paying for insurance, it is inequitable that they could lose everything because the insurance they are paying for will not cover their children when dealing with a devastating disease such as autism.  Currently it is only possible for some families to get limited coverage through very large group policies.  Therefore, if a family has an individual policy or most smaller group policies, most or all of their expenses for autism diagnosis and treatment end up being out-of-pocket costs that have them mortgage their homes, depleting their savings, and ransacking their retirement plans – even though they are paying for insurance coverage every month!

The steps that Illinois is taking to try to address this issue are steps that will hopefully lead other states – and the country – into helping all families dealing with the effects of autism in their lives. 

Add comment July 17th, 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.

Add comment July 10th, 2008

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.

Add comment July 10th, 2008

How is Autism Diagnosed?

Since Autism varies from individual to individual, doctors rely on some basic, core behaviors to diagnose Autism and to determine how severe it is for each individual.  The earlier Autism is diagnosed, the earlier treatment can begin, often keeping symptoms from progressing a lot and helping the individual and family to work with Autism more successfully.

The behaviors that doctors look for in order to diagnose Autism include difficulty making friends or connecting with peers,  difficulty initiating or maintaining conversations; minimal patterns of interest – especially when they are abnormal in the amount of focus or intensity, sticking to an inflexible routine or pattern, such as in eating or dressing or other areas of life; staying very preoccupied with or focused on certain specific objects or subjects; using repetitive, stereotyped or unusual language; inability or impairment with regard to social play or imagination. 

Sometimes doctors use questionnaires along with their other diagnostic tools.  Questionnaires and other screening tools rely on parents and/or caregiver’s experience and observations of the child.  This input is extremely important because there are many observations that parents and caregivers see on a day-to-day basis that will help the doctor determine helpful information that will enhance the doctor’s evaluation, especially in areas where there might be a question.

Autism is complex and requires not only the child’s doctor, but a team approach including specialists such as a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, neurologist, speech therapist and others.  Usually, your child’s primary care physician will gather this team together.  Since Autism affects so many aspects of the individual’s life, having a team of specialists that can compare notes and work together should ensure that the individual is cared for in every aspect of the disease.  This will create the best chance for the biggest improvement.

For information on Autism two of the best resources are Autism Society of America at 1-800-328-8476 or on the web at and Autism Research Institute at 1-619-281-7165 or on the web at

Add comment July 6th, 2008

Symptoms of Autism

Autism is a developmental brain disorder that usually occurs in children under three years old.  The disease can affect various parts of the brain and result in symptoms such as restricted movement, repetitive movement and impairment of communication and social interaction. 

Some individuals have severe issues with Autism, such as movements involving flapping and rocking.  Others have various communication issues.  Individuals with Autism can be low, medium or high functioning depending on how much assistance they need with daily living.  There is no official threshold for these classifications, so they can be very controversial.

An individual with Autism usually has a pattern of several symptoms rather than just one symptom.  Symptoms usually occur during childhood and can continue through adulthood.  Some symptoms, for instance are showing less attention and reaction to stimuli than other people, not smiling, looking at others or using eye contact with others. 

Quite often, individuals with autism are quite intelligent but have few ways to show their intelligence.  They can understand more than what the people around them such as family, friends and caregivers realize, and in many cases have special abilities ranging from memorization of facts, unique use of computers, and even being a prodigy at music, art or in other areas. 

At least half of parents notice their child’s Autistic symptoms by 18 months and more parents are aware of these symptoms by 24 months of age.  It is essential that diagnosis and treatment be sought right away so that symptoms can be addressed – and minimized – to the fullest extent.

Symptoms that a majority of parents have reported include no babbling or baby talk by age 12 months, no pointing or waving – such as waving goodbye – by 12 months, not trying to say single or individual words by 12 months, no two-word combinations – especially spontaneously – by 24 months, and/or any loss of language or social skills at any age.

If your child – or a child you know – has these symptoms it is essential for them to be seen by their family doctor and/or a specialist as soon as possible so that they can be diagnosed, addressed and hopefully decreased.  There is more information regarding Autism every day, and there are promising treatments to help control or diminish symptoms when they are dealt with early.

Add comment July 6th, 2008

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