A Prescription for Healthy Living

At your child’s well visit, you mention to the doctor that you have noticed that your son or daughter is displaying an on-going pattern of unusual behavior. When asked to elaborate, you explain that your child does not respond to your voice, has a tendency of rocking back and forth, and even bangs his head. Digging deeper, he asks if your child’s actions could be the result of bad behavior–is he acting out? You’re sure that is not the issue as these episodes tend to occur randomly. He then conveys to you his suspicions: Autism. Your heart sinks. The signs were there all along but you just didn’t realize it they had anything to do with autism.

What is Autism?

Autism is a disorder that affects the part of the brain responsible for communication and social behavior. While the severity of autism differs from person to person, most people with autism have a difficult time interacting with others on a social level. People with autism typically fall into one of two categories: Low-functioning autism and high-functioning autism. Categories may be determined based on the severity of symptoms and a simple IQ test. Low-functioning autism is less severe in terms of symptomotology and high-functioning autism is more severe.

Children affected by autism tend to have some degree of mental retardation. One of the symptoms of autism is not responding to questions; therefore, it is quite difficult to test an autistic child. A doctor who specializes in autism will be able to conduct special tests in order to determine your child’s degree of autism.

It seems that autism diagnoses are on the rise. You may be familiar with the looming controversy regarding the connection between childhood vaccines and autism. Please note there is absolutely no evidence to indicate there is any relation between the two. Vaccinations are very important to the health and well-being of your child. Please speak with your pediatrician if you have any concerns regarding whether or not vaccinations are safe for your child.

What are the Symptoms of Autism?

Many symptoms are associated with autism. The more common symptoms of this disorder include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Will not cuddle or make eye contact with people
– Will not respond to sound (voices, “noise”)
– Will not respond when he or she is called by name
– Will not speak properly
– Rocks body or head back and forth (may also bang head or spin)
– Stares
– Cannot decipher hand motions or other such body language
– Will not participate in make-believe or pretend games
– Needs order; will become upset if routine is disrupted
– Unchanging facial expression; lacks emotion
– May injure himself; shows no fear

What are the Causes of Autism?

Much debate revolves around the issue of from where autism originates. Some physicians suggest that autism is a genetic disorder. Others claim it may be an environmental issue. Most of the time, the reason why one child is autistic and another is not, is largely unknown. Statistics reveal that autism affects boys more than it does girls. Again, there is no explanation as to why this is true; however, more and more research is done each year in the hopes that one day a physician may actually be able to give a parent a more hopeful diagnosis about their son or daughter.

Statistics indicate that siblings of autistic children have a five percent chance of also developing autism. Furthermore, siblings of autistic children seem to have a higher likelihood of developing some type of learning disability. If you have a child with autism and are thinking about having more children, speak with your obstetrician about whether it would be good for you to meet with a genetic counselor.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger’s Syndrome is a disorder that is comparable in symptomotology to autism in that it affects a child’s ability to socialize and communicate with others. Unlike autism, symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome tend to fall on the milder half of the autistic spectrum. But like its autism counterpart, there are no concrete reasons to explain why a child has either of these conditions.

What are the Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome?

Listed below are the more common symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome. If your child exhibits symptoms not mentioned on this list that have you concerned, contact your physician and request that he or she be assessed for autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

– Is typically obsessed with statistics or schedules
– Fails to make eye contact
– Displays limited facial expressions
– Speaks in a monotone voice
– Difficulty reading other people’s body language

While there is no cure for autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, there are many viable treatment options available–from medication to behavioral therapy and skill training–that will allow your child an optimal quality of life. Contact your healthcare provider to learn what options are available to your child.

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