Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Understanding Autism: Prevalence, Impact, and Research Focus
Understanding Autism can be very difficult. It is one of the most common diseases that children in the United States have today. The professional term for Autism is Autism Spectrum Disorder, also known as (ASD). Autism was first introduced in 1911 when a Swiss Psychiatrist named Eugen Bleuler referred to it as a symptom of Schizophrenia. After it was officially discovered in 1943, researchers in the United States used the term to describe children with a mental condition that came with many disabilities.
According to Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, behavioral symptoms of Autism begin to show as early as twelve to eighteen months of age. Autism is on the rise in the United States, and there is still no cure for it yet. With so many advances in today’s society, one might think there is a solution to this disease, but sadly there still isn’t. Many individuals in the United States are still not completely informed about ASD. I will be addressing more information on this compelling subject and will delve into the principles of how ASD is caused, diagnosed, and treated.
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Although there is no cure for Autism yet, there have been many treatments created, and the reason is that ‘ASD occurs in every racial and ethnic group, and across all socioeconomic levels’ (Jones 4). ASD is likely to happen to anyone regarding the factors of whether they are of a different ethnicity, born in a different country, have different income levels, etc. According to the Autism Society, more than three million Americans live under the radar of the disorder. Autism is also one of the fastest-growing disabilities in the United States. It is considered fast-growing due to the fact that there hasn’t been a cure for the disease, and that is because the factors that cause Autism are also unknown.
A statistical report in 2014 stated that the annual cost of Autism services is from two hundred thirty-six dollars to two hundred sixty-two billion dollars. The majority of the money is used on adults yearly. Children with disability use up to one hundred ninety-six billion dollars a year, set against adults who use two hundred sixty-two billion dollars a year. Autism has been a very misunderstood health issue since it was discovered by an American child psychiatrist named Leo Kanner in 1943. It has affected the lives of many Americans, and therefore, research has been highly encouraged to continue in the United States.
Diagnosing Autism: Steps and Challenges
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diagnosing Autism can be very difficult because there is no medical test to automatically detect the disease. For example, a simple blood test that can easily identify if someone has Diabetes would not be able to identify if the child has Autism. Diagnosing Autism is a bit challenging because it takes time to identify if the child has Autism. After reading about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I clearly understood the idea of how it is diagnosed. Diagnosing ASD takes two steps: Developmental Screening and Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation.
First, the Developmental Screening is a short test in which the doctor asks the child a series of questions that determines if the child has the basic learning skills that correspond to his/her age. The doctor will also interact with the child by playing and speaking to the child. In addition, the doctor will be asking the parents of the child for additional information to make the diagnosis more efficient. Since children are more prone to developing Autism at a very young age, a hindrance to any of these activities with the child can reflect the possibility of developing Autism.
Also, ‘ children who are born prematurely or with low birth weight are at greater risk for developing ASD’ (Jones 26). Regular check-ups will be necessary when the child is three years or younger. If the child seems to be delayed in basic skills for his/her age, additional check-ups might be required, but most importantly, they are required in order to identify if the child is autistic or is developing Autism. Second, the Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation test is a thorough review of the child’s behavior and development with communication. It also includes the testing of hearing, vision screening, genetic testing, neurological testing, and many more medical tests included.
According to Keith Jones, a list to identify if a child is autistic at an early age is if he/she doesn’t respond to his/her name, has poor eye contact, and has no smiling or social responsiveness. Later in age, one can identify if the child is autistic if he/she lacks the ability to make friends, the ability to sustain a conversation with someone, repetitive language, and more. In other cases, the primary pediatrician of the child will refer the child to a specialist who will go further with the diagnosis. The specialist will include tests that will mainly focus on the brain of the child, which would also benefit the research on ASD. Every child that is being treated and diagnosed is helping scientists come to conclusions on how ASD s caused and how it can be cured.
Genetics, Environment, and Autism Etiology
Furthermore, doctors believe that genetics and the environment of the child play a big part in being Autistic. ‘Studies suggest that ASD could be a result of disruption in normal brain growth very early in development. These disruptions may be the result of defects in genes that control brain development and regulate how brain cells communicate with each other (Jones 5). According to Shirley Cohen, the author of ‘Targeting Autism,’ states the causes of Autism are unknown, but there has been evidence that demonstrates that environmental stressors, genetic mutations, and other factors in the environment play an extremely important role in the life of an autistic child. An autistic child can be disturbed in many ways; it all varies because every child is very different.
An example of how the environment can fluster an autistic child is the change in schedule. When I was in high school last year, I volunteered to help the kids who had Autism. And I learned many things about them. For example, I noticed that the kids would get anxious, frustrated, and mad when the schedule would change. The autistic kids were used to a set schedule that any little change would turn over their behavior for the rest of the day. Sudden noises and movements would also get them to become upset. It was very important to understand why the kid was upset in order to help them all. On good days, the kids would participate and be engaged in class effortlessly if the teacher followed the set schedule. Otherwise, the kids would feel irritated, making it hard to get them to concentrate and participate in the activities.
As mentioned before, many scientists don’t know the causes of Autism, but according to Doctor Michael Chez, ‘ASD is one of the most inheritable conditions based on studies that have been focused on families with twins. Monozygotic or identical twins have a 90 percent correlation for inheritance if Autism occurs, while non-identical twins have a 10 percent correlation’ (Chez 77). Doctor Chez has concluded that families with twins are more prone to having Autism in the family. Studies in the last decade have also identified 65 genes that link to Autism and play a role in the brain (The Genetics of Autism). Genes are what make up the DNA in a child, which happens to be inherited from the child’s parents in the first place.
Previously, I mentioned how scientists believe that Autism can be the result of any defects that the genes have. The National Institute of Health states that ‘ a gene is the basic physical and functional unit of heredity.’ It is known that genes are inherited, and according to Lisa Jo Rudy, the writer of the article ‘Link Between Genetics and Autism,’ every human has 20,000 to 25,000 genes. In fact, she mentions how only 1 percent of our genes define the difference from one another. The child can also develop Autism even before it’s born; for example, when the mother is pregnant, and she is exposed to other diseases, the baby is also exposed and is prone to developing Autism as it continues to grow. When a child is born with Autism, it means that normal brain development was disrupted as the child was developing. With this in mind, research is still being conducted today to figure out how Autism is developed even before the child is born.
- Jones, Keith. “Autism Spectrum Disorder: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment.” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 62, no. 2, 2021, pp. 4-30.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder.” CDC, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html.
- Cohen, Shirley. “Targeting Autism: Environmental Stressors and Genetic Mutations.” Journal of Developmental Disorders, vol. 48, no. 3, 2019, pp. 125-142.
- Chez, Michael. “Genetic Factors in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Insights from Twin Studies.” Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, vol. 45, no. 1, 2018, pp. 77-92.
- The Genetics of Autism. National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml.
- Rudy, Lisa Jo. “Link Between Genetics and Autism.” Psychology Today, 18 May 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/autism-diagnosis/202005/link-between-genetics-and-autism.