Autism, described first by Kanner in 1943, is a developmental disorder commencing in early childhood. Boys are 4 times more likely than girls to be affected.
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The main features are:
• Inability of the child to form normal social relationships, even with his or her own parents
• Delayed and disordered language development (about one-half of all autistic children never learn to speak effectively)
• Obsessive and ritualistic behaviours such as hand flapping, spinning, twiddling pieces of stick or string and hoarding unusual objects
• Restricted range of interests
• Lack of imagination and difficulty in development of play
• Anxiety over changes in routine
WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF AUTISM?
cause of autism is unknown and no one particular anatomical,
biochemical or genetic disorder has been found in those who suffer from
it. The problem appears to lie in that part of the brain responsible for
the development of language.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF AUTISM?
Many autistic children appear physically healthy and well developed. However, they may show many disturbed behaviours. As infants they may cry a lot and need little sleep. They resist change in routine and often refuse to progress from milk and baby food to a solid diet. They avoid eye contact and often behave as if they are deaf. Normal bonding between mother and child does not occur and prolonged bouts of crying do not respond to cuddling. As the children get older and more agile they may show frequent tantrum behaviour, destructiveness, hyperactivity and a disregard for danger, requiring constant supervision to prevent harm to themselves or their environment.
Wendy Chung: Autism — what we know (and what we don't know yet)
In this calm and factual talk, geneticist Wendy Chung shares what we know about autism spectrum disorder — for example, that autism has multiple, perhaps interlocking, causes. Looking beyond the worry and concern that can surround a diagnosis, Chung and her team look at what we've learned through studies, treatments and careful listening.
Repair the Brain with Healthy Living
In this informative talk about brain health, Dr. Daniel G. Amen makes a powerful case for preventative living through healthy habits. In a time where bodies are expanding and brains are shrinking, he calls this game-changing lifestyle The Brain Warrior’s Way.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR AUTISM?
There is no medical treatment for autism, although some medications may help for some of Aspergers symptoms. If there is a deterioration in behaviour or skills, a thorough medical check is required because the autistic child does not indicate pain or communicate clearly. Best results are obtained by early diagnosis, followed by a firm and consistent home management and early intervention program. Later the child will benefit from remedial education, either in a specialized facility or in a regular school with specialist backup. Speech therapy can help with language development, and non-speaking children can be taught alternative methods of communication.
Most difficult behaviours can be reduced or eliminated by a program of firm and consistent management.
WHAT IS THE OUTLOOK?
Behavioral and emotional problems may get worse in adolescence, especially during sexual development. Most autistic children have some degree of mental retardation, although some may have normal or superior intelligence (high functioning). Most require at least some degree of lifelong support in order to enjoy a good quality of life. As their expectancy is normal, this represents a considerable commitment from their families and community support services.
Autistic persons have an increased risk of developing epilepsy, and may suffer psychiatric complications such as anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder as they get older. These require appropriate medical treatment.
WHERE TO SEEK ADVICE?
Consult your GP, who may refer you to a pediatrician or child psychiatrist. Assistance can also be obtained from Autism Associations in your country, which can provide full information regarding assessment and diagnostic services, management programs and family support services.
Mind-altering microbes: how the microbiome affects brain and behavior: Elaine Hsiao at TEDxCaltech
Elaine Hsiao is a postdoctoral fellow in chemistry and biology at Caltech. She received her undergraduate degree in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics from UCLA and her doctoral degree in neurobiology from Caltech with Professor Paul Patterson. She studied neuroimmune mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders and uncovered a role for the commensal microbiota in regulating autism-related behaviors, metabolism, and intestinal physiology. Elaine has received several honors, including predoctoral fellowships from the National Institute of Health, Autism Speaks and the Caltech Innovation Program. She is currently studying the mechanisms by which microbes modulate host production of neuroactive molecules and aims to better understand how the human microbiota influences health and disease.
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