Autism - what is it, and what can be done about it
Sometimes called Autistic Disorder or Kanner's Syndrom, autism is a brain development disorder. The disorder manifests itself before a child is of the age of three, and from there, continues a steady course without remissions or relapses.
It is the most severe of the five pervasive development disorders (PDD) or autism spectrum disorders (ASD), all of which are closely related to, but usually less severe than autism. Children with autism are marked by impaired social interaction, impaired communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior.
These three characteristics reflect Leo Kanner's first reports of autism emphasizing 'autistic aloneness' and 'insistence on sameness'.
There are very few cases where the cause of autism is known or can be traced. Genetic risk determines over 90% of whether a child will develop the disorder, however, the genetics of autism are complex and not well understood. Many environmental risk factors have been proposed, such as exposure of children to vaccines, but they are controversial and have not been confirmed by reliable studies.
There is a wide range of autism, from those who are dysfunctional and appear to be menally disabled, to those whose symptoms are only apparent to close friends and family members. What can be done about autism...what are the treatments? Autistic children mainly have problems with sensory overload and distortion.
These are some of the same problems many people not suffering from the disorder develop, and so many treatment options have become available in current years.
The Irene Method is one way that has been proven to effectively treat visual perception disorders in autistic children. This method is named for Irene Pepperberg, a scientist who has made her mark studying gray parrots. This method uses color to create a more harmonized world for the child who suffers from this disorder. You may have heard of this method if anyone has ever suggested using a color filter over the page when reading to be able to read better and more quickly.
This method has proven to work in many cases, and if your autistic child is at the maturity level of reading, you may want to try these color filters to see if there is a difference in speed and comprehension. However, it is likely that your autistic child can benefit from color filters during the entire day; the benefits are often not limited to reading. Special glasses have been made that use colored lenses to help with this problem.
Not every child responds the same way to every color, so it is a process of trial and error to find out which color is the one blocking the harmful light. It is often also helpful to use colored light bulbs in your home to help autistic individuals with their visual perception problems.
There are other treatments that are used for autism that will be covered in later articles. No cure is known for autism. Most children with autism lack social support, meaningful relationships, and future employment opportunities. Unless the autistic child is supported by his or her family, the child will flounder.
About the author:
Angela Edwards lives on Washington State's Coastline in the Great Northwest.