AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER 1
This paper presentsimportant details about a mental condition known as the AutismSpectrum Disorder (ASD). A general definition of the disorder ispresented clearly and succinctly, followed by a brief explanation ofsome theories explaining the condition concerning its causes and whythe brain functions differ between individuals placed differently onthe spectrum. The perception of those diagnosed with this conditionversus those not in the spectrum is also compared. The paper willalso discuss the history of ASDs to establish how they have beenperceived by both members of the public and the medical profession. Achartered history of the changes in perception is outlined. Finally,the paper explains how people with ASDs can still lead productivelives despite their limitations. In this regard, the focus is put onunderstanding the key issues preventing the society fromunderstanding persons diagnosed with an ASD. The paper also mentionsseveral theories that have been proposed to explain the incidence ofASD. These theories include the Mind Blindness Theory, Weak CoherenceTheory, Extreme Male Brain Theory, The Executive Dysfunction Theory,and the Empathizing-Systemizing Theory.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrumdisorder (ASD) refers to a group of developmental disabilities whichhave the potential to cause social, emotional, and behavioralchallenges. The phrase spectrum refers to a broad range of symptomsand different levels of impairment that have an impact on children.Children in various parts of the globe can be affected by ASD. Somechildren are more affected by this particular disorder while othersare less affected. Some end up being severely incapacitated.According to CDC (2015), Autism Spectrum Disorder is, therefore, acondition which affects the social interaction of children,communication, and behavior of an individual (CDC, 2015). Majorly,the diseases affect children, but there are many cases of adults alsobeing affected by this disorder. According to an extensive study,children are the most affected group in the society. ASD attackschildren when they are about three years of age, but it is always notdetected at an early stage. The diagnosis can be made many yearsafter the infection has taken place (Autism, 2016). For children, thecondition is likely to set in before one turns three, but thediagnosis occurs later on in one’s life. Despite the challengespresented by ASD, it is possible for a person to live a normal lifeif early detection is proceeded by focused treatment strategies.
Many theories havebeen advanced in an attempt to understand and provide a succinctexplanation for the occurrence and challenges associated with thiscondition. For example, the Weak Central Coherence Theory recognizesthe unique ability of people on the spectrum to focus on tiny details(Happe & Frith, 2006). The Mind Blindness Theory underscores thepossibility of making a diagnosis of ASD by simply observing thebehavior of young children (Baron-Cohen, 1995). The ExecutiveDysfunction Theory contends that ASD only occurs because someelements of brain function are impaired (Chaste & Leboyer, 2012).The Extreme Male Brain Theory states that persons with ASD haveeither enlarged or diminished portions of the brain as compared tohealthy males (Baron-Cohen, 2002). The Empathizing-Systemizing Theoryproposes that systemizing as manifested by persons on the spectrumproves intelligence (Baron-Cohen, 2006). These theories help inseeking to understand the different perceptions and assumptionsregarding the cause of ASD.
Notwithstanding thescientific evidence presented in the stated theories, the exact causeof ASD has yet to be established. It is expected that those whosuffer from this condition will develop serious problems not onlywith their ability to communicate effectively with others but alsotheir capacity to solve their emotional and social issues. Most ofthe stated theories contend that a combination of complexenvironmental and genetic factors is responsible for the generationof these conditions (Chaste & Leboyer, 2012). There are those whobelieved that MMR vaccine was responsible for the cause of thecondition. This belief elicited heated debates and controversies andled to extensive experimentation on children. Granted, thoroughinvestigations have found no grounds at all to link MMR with AutismSpectrum Disorder (Chaste & Leboyer, 2012). Nevertheless, it isimportant to consider the differences between a person on thespectrum and one not on the spectrum.
A person on thespectrum will exhibit difficulty in learning. This implies that thecondition may hamper the cognitive development of the individual. Assuch, the victims have poor brain development which is replicated intheir inability to communicate well and interact with othersproductively. According to a study, it was identified that childrenwho suffered from ASD had learning difficulties compared to those whowere not affected by ASD (Oliver, 2015). The developmentalinfirmities occur mainly through the damages in one’s learning,physical, and behavioral areas (CDC, 2015). Such infirmities havefundamental effects on the mental capacity and functioning of personson the spectrum.
Besides, personson the spectrum may have a different worldview as compared to thosenot on the spectrum. A person on the spectrum tends to lead a lonelylife full of solitude (Autism Speaks, 2016). They perceive the worldas an isolated place where people do not have to come together towork and function productively (Baron-Cohen, 2006). People who arenot on the spectrum will talk about unity and teamwork or believe intogetherness in solving the prevailing problems whether emotional,socio-cultural or political (Autism, 2016). On the other hand, thoseon the spectrum cannot even sustain a successful interaction in thefirst place. They tend to remain enclosed in their world and dothings their way (Happe & Frith, 2006). This is very distinctfrom the normal counterparts. Persons not on the spectrum havecompetent cognitive skills demonstrated through an ability tocommunicate effectively. They are not only outgoing but also believein teamwork as a part of the social interaction (Tsakanikos,Underwood, Kravariti, Bouras & McCarthy 2011). It is critical toexamine the history of ASD so as to pinpoint the progress madetowards understanding and managing the disease.
The word `autism`was first used in 1908 to describe schizophrenic patients that wereparticularly self-absorbed and withdrawn. In 1943, an Americanpsychiatrist described eleven children that were highly intelligentalbeit desirous of avoiding humaninteractions (CDC, 2015). Their obsession with routine also led thepsychiatrist to referto theircondition asinfantile autism. Ayear later, aGerman scientistalso identifiedintelligent boys withspecial interests and little inclination towards interactions (CDC,2015). The milder type of autism was called Asperger`s syndrome. Inthe 1960s, researchers focused on the role of life experiences in thedevelopment of autism. Schizophrenia was also thought to have linksto autism. However, it was discovered in 1977 that genetics andbiology caused variations in brain development and hence causedautism (CDC, 2015).
In1980, infantile autism was officially listed separately fromschizophrenia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of MentalDisorders (DSM) (Kulage, 2014). In 1987, the DSM adopted the term“autism disorder” instead of infantile autism. In the same year,a researcher also proved how intensive behaviour therapy could helpchildren living with autism. The government classified autism as acondition requiring special learning in state schools in 1991(CDC.Gov). Three years later, Asperger’s syndrome was added to theDSM (Kulage, 2014). From that point forward, milder cases of autismwere included under the spectrum disorder. In 1998, themeasles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine was erroneously thought to causeautism (Chaste & Leboyer, 2012). A similar premise was made twoyears later with regards to the substance thimerosal in childhoodvaccines (Chaste & Leboyer, 2012).
In2009, CDC released estimates to the effect that 1 in 110 childrenmanifested signs of autism spectrum disorders. However, the seemingincrease from the previous rate of 1 in 150 children could partly beattributed to enhanced diagnostic and screening techniques (CDC.Gov).In 2013, the DSM grouped all subcategories under the umbrella ofAutism Spectrum Disorder (Kulage, 2014). The definition of autism wasalso revised to cover impaired social interaction and repetitivebehaviors (CDC.Gov). These historical developments provide a view ofthe strides made in the diagnosis and treatment of ASD.
Besides,the stigma associated with ASD can only be understood in the contextof previous historical research. For example, people with ASDs havelong been viewed as peculiar. This was especially the case before therole of genetics and biology became known. Scientists andpsychologists perceived such persons as test subjects. The society,in general, shunned them for fear of getting infected with the samemannerisms. Nevertheless, recent developments have sought to‘normalize’ the disease by encouraging inclusivity. As discussed,the CDC has revised the definition of autism to cover a variety ofdisorders (CDC.Gov). This decision has helped to reduce stigma andimprove efforts aimed at treatment.
Granted,autism and other developmental diseases are incurable. Thedebilitating effects of ASD are likely to occur for a lifetime.Therefore, those on the spectrum need to manage the condition for theentirety of their lives. In this regard, particular treatmentstrategies can help children overcome developmental challenges bylearning new skills. For example, free government services areavailable to cater for children born with autism. Also, in-homebehavioural therapy prepares a child for the challenges in later life(Oliver, 2015). School-based programs are also designed to providechildren with specially designed education and training(Tsakanikos et al., 2011). It is vital forguardians and parents to seek help as soon as they notice their childhas development delays. Early intervention can help a child to derivethe most benefit from special education. Consequently, theirdevelopment will speed up, and the symptoms of autism will becomeless noticeable.
Parentsneed to educate themselves about autism spectrum disorders so as tomake informed medical decisions. They also need to study their childso as to identify triggers for both positive responses and disruptivebehaviors. This will help a parent to avoid situations that maydestabilise the child. People with ASDs need to feel accepted andunconditionally loved (Oliver, 2015). Comparisons to other childrennot on the spectrum do more harm than good. Similar to everyone else,people with autism require an entire lifetime to develop theircapabilities.
Parentsneed to provide structure and safety that will enable a child withautism to thrive. Creating consistency in the child’s environmenthelps to reinforce learning. In this regard, it would help toreplicate the techniques deployed by therapists in the home setting.Sticking to a highly-structured routine helps to engenderconsistency. Parents need to use positive reinforcement to rewardacceptable behaviour (Robertson & Sagiv, 2015). The environmentat home needs to be safe and soothing in view of the child withautism. Identifying non-verbal cues for communication purposes isnecessary. Eye contact, touch, body language, and tone of voice canall be used to communicate with a child.
ASDis similar to other mental conditions such as Synaesthesia. Thelatter is described as a medical condition in which one sense isperceived as another sense. Numbers and coloured letters can alsooccur as another form of synaesthesia. The brain interprets a numberas a letter and vice versa. In some cases, a person senses a smell inresponse to a sound. Others may see something when they are touched.The individual perceptions of synaesthesia are unique to anindividual (Robertson & Sagiv, 2005). The interchange of sensesand letters occurs involuntarily. The person bears little controlover the sensations appearing to them. Some perceptions may bevisible through pleasurable feelings. The experiences of people withsynaesthesia are usually projected outside the body rather thanwithin the mind.
ASDand Synaesthesia have biased inclinations to gender. For example,synaesthesia focuses on particular populations such as women,left-handed persons, and people with high intelligence. The ExtremeMale Brain Theory also points to persons with ASD as havingpronounced male characteristics (Baron-Cohen, 2002). Synaesthesia hasan advantage in boosting the memory capacity. Persons withsynaesthesia are more likely to have better memory compared to otherindividuals (The Guardian, 2014). Many people with synaesthesia havelearnt correct interpretation of sounds and smells by utilizing theirenhanced memory. Persons with autism have also manifested superiorcompetence in understanding mathematical and other abstract concepts(Baron-Cohen, 2006). This shows that mental conditions can beeffectively managed so as to reap the most benefit for persons thatsuffer such disorders. Historical research and theoretical evidenceprove that both persons with synaesthesia and those on the spectrumcan find meaning in life by exploiting the unique capabilitiesafforded by their conditions.
Indeed, personsdiagnosed with ASD can lead normal lives despite the challengespresented by the condition. As discussed, ASD is a condition thatdenies sufferers the ability to function effectively in the society.The condition tampers with their communication processes (AutismSpeaks, 2016). The worldview and attitudes of these people towardsothers are very different. They cannot sustain eye contacts, bodylanguages, social expressions and may also ignore both familiar andunfamiliar people (Autism, 2016). Nevertheless, it is possible forpeople with ASD to live quite normal lives. Early intervention helpsto isolate the triggers of rampant behavior. Sticking to routine alsohelps persons with ASD to satisfy their need for consistency. Specialschool programs have been formed with the intention of catering tothe needs of children with autism. Parents also need to avoid makingcomparisons to other normal children. When a child senses love andcare from the parent, it will help him to thrive (Oliver, 2015).Synesthesia is another mental condition that swaps senses, colors,and numbers (Robertson & Sagiv, 2005). However, people withsynesthesia can also learn to control the impulses associated withtheir condition.
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