Monday, July 05, 2004

Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Back when I was in college, none of my teacher ed professors ever mentioned anything about autism. Now, it seems like a couple of kids in my school get diagnosed with this every year. Is it more common now? Or are we just more aware of it?

From the site:

Autism is a developmental disability that affects a person's ability to communicate, understand language, play, and interact with others. Autism is a behavioral syndrome, which means that its definition is based on patterns of behaviors that a person exhibits. Autism is not an illness or a disease. It is not contagious and, as far as we know, it is not acquired through contact with the environment. Autism is a neurological disability that is presumed to be present from birth and is always apparent before the age of three. Although autism affects the functioning of the brain, the specific cause of autism is unknown. In fact, it is widely assumed that there are most likely multiple causes, each of which may be manifested in different forms, or subtypes, of autism. Future research will help us understand the etiologies of autism.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an increasingly popular term that refers to a broad definition of autism including the classical form of the disorder as well as closely related disabilities that share many of the core characteristics. ASD includes the following diagnoses and classifications: (1) Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), which refers to a collection of features that resemble autism but may not be as severe or extensive; (2) Rett's syndrome, which affects girls and is a genetic disorder with hard neurological signs, including seizures, that become more apparent with age; (3) Asperger syndrome, which refers to individuals with autistic characteristics but relatively intact language abilities, and; (4) Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, which refers to children whose development appears normal for the first few years, but then regresses with the loss of speech and other skills until the characteristics of autism are conspicuous. Although the classical form of autism can be readily distinguished from other forms of ASD, the terms autism and ASD are often used interchangeably.

Individuals with autism and ASD vary widely in ability and personality. Individuals can exhibit severe mental retardation or be extremely gifted in their intellectual and academic accomplishments. While many individuals prefer isolation and tend to withdraw from social contact, others show high levels of affection and enjoyment in social situations. Some people with autism appear lethargic and slow to respond, but others are very active and seem to interact constantly with preferred aspects of their environment.

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