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Autism, also known as autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) or pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) affects the critical neural development, which leads to an impaired communication and social interaction (National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, 2010).

Afflicted individuals present signs of repetitive and restricted behavior. All the signs associated with autism begin during early childhood before the age of three (National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, 2010). The disorder affects processing of information in the brain by changing the way the neurons and the synapses organize and connect. Two types of this disorder have been identified: the asperse syndrome (ASD) that causes delay in language and cognitive development and the pervasive development disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) which is a bit milder.

Etiology

The cause of autism is poorly understood although the disease belongs to a family of diseases that have a neurobiological origin. Nevertheless, there is no single cause for autism neither is there any single cure for the disease. Some factors however increase the chances of autism such as genetic factors, infections, neurological problems, metabolic errors, immunological factors and environmental agents (MedlinePlus, 2010).

Since there is no single cause for autism, there is no single cure for the disorder and medical researchers should enhance their efforts in identifying the true cause of the disease. Researchers have exploited the regressive type of autism as it occurs in disorders like Glutaric Aciduria and Rett Syndrome. Models of these diseases may be used to extrapolate the etiologies of autism (MedlinePlus, 2010).

Signs and Symptoms

Autism begin at early stages of life. Therefore, the autistic children often have a delayed social development with a majority of them lacking the intuition about other children or other people in general (National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, 2010). Autistic infants may show a reduced attention to social stimuli and also observe and smile at others less often. The children with autism do not love being alone despite the general belief that people have that autistic children do love to be alone.

Autistic individuals have an impaired speech development and hence do not achieve to fluently communicate with others (MedlinePlus, 2010). These symptoms may begin in the first year during development where the babbling in children is delayed. Children may have unusual gestures and diminished responsiveness. In their second and third years of development, children have reduced babbling diversity, limited word combination and reduced gestures.

Repetitive behavior is another common symptom of autism which involves stereotypy, compulsive behavior, sameness, ritualistic behavior, restrictive behavior and self-injury (MedlinePlus, 2010). Symptoms such as self-injury can cause eye poking, hand biting and skin picking (MedlinePlus, 2010). Apart from injuring themselves, autistic individuals can injure other people close to them. Autistic individuals develop repetitive behavior of stereotypy, which is a repetitive movement that involves head rolling, hand flapping and body rocking
Treatment and Management

There seems not to be any single cure for autism despite the advancement in medicine in diagnostic techniques, behavioral therapy and patient education. Various methods that have been used in the management of autism have all been faced with detractors leaving some unanswered questions about the cure for autism. Doctors have used the biochemical approach in the management of autism. Nutritional management, dealing with food and medical allergies and administering of various vitamins have served to manage cases of autism (National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, 2010).

Other approaches such as neurosensory approaches involve patterning and stimulation procedures, facilitated communication, sensorial integration; daily life therapy and auditory training have also been used in the management of the condition (National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, 2010). Behavioral approaches involve the application of discrete trials and other modifications in behavior. Although various interventions have been made in the treatment and management of autism, proper and specific cure for autism still remain a puzzle.

References

MedlinePlus. (2010). Autism. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/autism.html

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2010). Autism Fact Sheet. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm

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