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Austism Spectrum Disorders

The terms autism spectrum and autistic spectrum are used to describe the range of conditions that are classified as pervasive developmental disorders. Pervasive developmental disorders include Asperger syndrome, autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, and Rett syndrome, as well as other, lesser known conditions. These disorders are characterized by communication difficulties, stereotyped and repetitive behaviors, cognitive delays, and social deficits.

Autism is at the core of the autism spectrum disorders. Asperger is very similar to autism in symptoms and likely causes. Unlike those with autism, however, people afflicted with Asperger have no delay in development of language.

Brief Overview

Autism is a developmental disorder that appears within the first three years of life and affects the brain’s development of social skills, including communication. It is thought to be a physical condition of abnormal chemistry and biology within the brain. The cause or causes of this are unknown and are the subject of much discussion and controversy within the autism research community. A number of causes have been suspected but remain unproven, including diet, digestive tract changes, mercury poisoning, vaccine sensitivity, and the body’s inability to properly use minerals and vitamins.

Characteristics of Autism Include:

  • Very little or no eye contact.
  • Resistance to being touched or held.
  • Lack of awareness about personal space.
  • Does not share generally acknowledged observations.
  • Difficulty in reading facial expressions or body language.
  • Does not understand jokes, figures of speech, or sarcasm.
  • Does not understand rules of conversation.
  • Does not understand group interactions.

There are many other characteristics of this disorder. No cure exists for autism, though improvements in diet have been thought to help this disorder.

Asperger Syndrome

Asperger syndrome is often considered to be the high functioning version of autism, though people afflicted with the disorder tend to have difficulty interacting socially, with clumsiness, and engaging in repetitious behaviors. The causes of Asperger syndrome are unknown. Asperger syndrome is considered to be a pervasive developmental disorder. It is thought that it is more common in boys than girls.

Although people who suffer from this disorder often have difficulty in social situations, many of them possess above average intelligence. It is possible that those afflicted with Asperger might excel at fields like computer programming.

There are many tests designed to diagnose Asperger syndrome. There is no cure for Asperger syndrome but there are a vast array of treatments that may help people such as cognitive-behavior therapy, parent training, physical and occupational training, social skills training, and speech and language therapy.

Rett Syndrome

Rett Syndrome is considered to be a neurodevelopment disorder in the grey matter of the brain. It almost exclusively affects females.

Symptoms of Rett Syndrome Include:

  • Breathing problems.
  • Change in development.
  • Excessive saliva and drooling.
  • Flapping arms and legs.
  • Shaky and unsteady walk.
  • Seizures.
  • Developmental changes.
  • Intellectual/learning difficulties.
  • Loss of social engagements.

Genetic testing is done to look for genetic defects that are associated with the syndrome.

There Are Three Types of Rett Syndrome:

  • Atypical (speech and hand skills mild, if it appears in a male, appears soon after birth).
  • Classical (meets a diagnostic criteria).
  • Provisional (symptoms appear between 1 and 3).

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