What is Autism?
Autism (or PDD) is a developmental disorder characterized by communication problems, difficulties in creating social connections, language difficulties, repetitive behavior patterns and narrowly defined areas of interest. The word ‘Autism’ comes from ‘Auto’ (self), which refers to the self-isolation and self-stimulating behaviors seen in children with the condition.
Austism is defined by the APA (DSM V, 2012, American Psychiatric Association) as a congenital pervasive developmental disorder. It can usually be diagnosed within the first 30 months of life, but until just a few years ago only 1 out of 5000 children was diagnosed correctly. More recently, due to changes in diagnostic criteria, over 1 out of 200 children are diagnosed with autism, with the majority of them boys.
The most recent version of the DSM has redefined a number of different disorders (autism, aspergers, PDD) as all falling along a single spectrum: autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).
Two main features of Autistic Spectrum Disorder
The DSM V recognizes two diagnostic criteria for this disorder:
1. Social communication impairment
Disorder in the development of social interactions: this aspect expresses itself as an inability to identify others’ emotions, the inability to respond to others’ emotions or to read and adapt to the social code of behavior. For example, an autistic child typically will not make eye contact and won’t recognize others’ attempts to make contact either through eye contact or body language.
This aspect also includes general difficulty with verbal communication, such as developmental delays or even a complete lack of verbal social interaction abilities; inability to hold a mutual conversation and unsuitable responses to verbal and non-verbal expressions. An autistic person’s body language and facial expressions will be lacking in emotion and will usually include repetitive actions.
2. Restricted interests / repetitive behaviors
A small number of narrowly defined topics of interest and a lack of imagination: autistic individuals will usually hold to very narrow interests which are generally difficult to change. They also show a typical inability to play imaginary games.
The newly released manual, DSM V, has redefined all forms of autism under a single austism spectrum disorder. This includes various previously recognized disorders – hereunder are the most commonly known:
Aspergers’ Disorder – has been re-defined as high-functioning autism. The features are similar to those for autism in general, but are less disruptive or noticeable and generally accompanied by a higher IQ. Many individuals with this form of autism become high-achievers with many going on to complete academic degrees.
Retts’ Disorder – this is a genetic disorder that usually starts to show itself at approximately 18 months, when normal development appears to stop, and then to regress. At this point, autistic behaviors often manifest, including repetitive and non-specific hand movements, avoidance of eye contact, inconsolable crying, loss of speech and sensory problems.
As these autistic-like features often disappear later on, the DSM V now lists Rett’s Disorder as separate from Autistic Spectrum disorders.
Treatments for autism
The range and kinds of treatments for ASD are considerably large. These include various behavior-based treatments, such as intensive behavioral intervention at an early age; communication interventions using technology or other means; sensory integration; therapy with music and animals and medical interventions.
Alternative treatments include diet-based therapies, chiropractic treatment, hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment and more.
A breakthrough treatment that helps children diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder to overcome attention disorder aspects of ASD – including distractibility, problems with working memory, self-regulation and organization.
Children diagnosed with ASD often deal with aspects of attention deficit disorders (ADD/ADHD) as well – and these can be treated with AttenGo. AttenGo’s neuro-cognitive training methods enable children to develop their cognitive skills, such as reaction time, accurate perception and memory. Such abilities often enhance communication skills as well, giving autistic children greater tools for listening, communicating and remaining calm in social situations.
AttenGo often becomes a favorite activity for ASD children, as the repetitive aspect of its training provides them with a steady and calm environment within which they can train and gain clear feedback on their progress.