Autism has been discovered in 1943 by Kanner, and is now constructed as a “spectrum disorder” (Kanner, 1973). By this, it is suggested that there are levels or degrees of the disease.
Wing (1971) asserts that there are three peculiar developmental deficiencies which have been determined namely those involved in deficiencies in social interaction; communication; constrained and peculiar behavior patterns; and activities.
The deficiencies in each of these ought to be assessed for an effective diagnosis of the condition. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV of the American Psychiatric Association (2000) categorizes autism under pervasive developmental disorders (PDD).
There has been extensive research dedicated to determine the exact causes of the condition; however, to this day, its exact etiology remains to be discovered
(Frith, 1989; Rutter et al., 1994). While this is the case, most authors put forth that a combination of genetics and environmental determinants interact, causing the deficiencies characterizing autism (Volkmar, 2004).
Contemporary research projects that the preponderance of the condition is pegged at 10 for every 10,000 boys, with males more commonly afflicted (Fombonne, 2003). Autistic children present a significant trial to their loved ones and their teachers, because of the grave deficiencies of the condition which encompass severe sensory sensitivity, being incapable of identifying patterns of distinct contextual cues, and communication deficiencies (Volkmar & Lord, 1998).
As a result of these, autistic children may be very anxious, very frequently throw tantrums, be exceptionally violent, and be insensitive to sensory stimuli (Green, 1996). Within the range of degrees of the condition, there are wide distinctions among afflicted children. This accounts for the complexity with which behavioral interventions are crafted (Kasari, 2002). There is a wide array of interventions focused at decreasing the intensity of symptoms. These include drug therapies, customized diets and dovetailed behavioural programs.
There is no one-size-fits all program for the condition (Dempsey & Foreman, 2001; Freeman, 1997). One other difference is the fact that there is limited empirical proof on the potency offered by each of these (Gresham et al., 1999; Kasari, 2002; Volkmar et al., 2004). One danger of the inadequacy of assessment mechanisms is the misguided use of these interventions, which deem them ineffective altogether.
One proposal for mitigating the condition are parent-focused early intervention programs. A handful of authors have documented the logic behind such programs, as follows:
1) Parents are rational catalysts for change (Tharp & Wetzel, 1969); 2) parents are in the best position to know about the condition of their children (they are “experts” (Schopler & Mesibov, 1995); 3) parent interventions are strongly cost efficient and are particularly intense; and 4) they are somewhat therapeutic; being a means for decreasing stress (Bristol, Gallagher & Holt, 1993).
Parent-focused programs that cater to parents with autistic children have suggested effectual measures for teaching children and decreasing difficult behaviour typically related with the condition (Moes, 1995). Of note is the collaborative effort between researchers and parents of children with autism, with the latter being taught how to carry out a successful functional evaluation of their child’s difficult behavior and to design the apt interventions (Frea & Hepburn, 1999).
There were even special programs that entailed utilizing video feedback to change the way they interface with the autistic child (Reamer, Brady & Hawkins, 1998) and to facilitate communication through play and objectives in language (Aldred, Pollard & Adams, 2001).