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Autism: Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Tuesday, 29 Apr 2014 12:32 AM

Autism is a neural developmental disorder that usually hampers transmission and processing of neural signals inside the brain. The autism spectrum diseases (ASDs) also include two other neural disorders. Repetitive stereotypical behavior is among early signs seen in toddlers. Proper testing and diagnosis is essential before diagnosing the disorder. When first signs were diagnosed in the 20th century, the disorder was considered rare. However, over the past few decades, there has been a steep increase in the number of cases diagnosed.
Proper testing and diagnosis of the signs of autism, followed by psychotherapeutic treatment approaches involving speech and behavioral therapy can help patients lead a relatively normal life.

 
Causes of Autism

The exact cause of autism is not well understood. Various case studies and other scientific research show that most patients have a pediatric history.
  • Genetic mutations: Random changes in certain genes called mutations can alter the normal functioning of the brain synapses, causing autistic behavior.
  • Environmental factors: Some researchers believe that certain infections, prenatal stress, heavy metal poisoning, and even some infant vaccines can stimulate the disorder in toddlers.
  • Birth defects: Intake of certain potent teratogens in the first weeks of pregnancy can cause serious damage to the developing fetus and lead to the disorder.
     
Signs and Symptoms of Autism

The signs of autism become visible early. Autistic toddlers lack language skills and fail to communicate with others effectively. Therefore, they are not good at making friends, which is the first step towards diagnosis.
  • Repetitive behavior: Autistic toddlers engage in repetitive stereotypical behavior like aligning objects or stacking cans. Autistic infants also show repetitive body movements like head rolling.
  • Self-injury: In some cases, toddlers exhibit tendencies of self-injury by either hand biting, head banging, or eye poking.
  • Speech and language impairment: Autistic toddlers start speaking very late compared to other children. Autistic infants do not start babbling until their second year. Even when they start speaking, communication is limited to a few words or phrases instead of complete sentences. Lack of language skills is among the signs of this disorder.
  • Lack of social communication: Autistic toddlers have a hard time communicating with others. If an infant shows no response while cuddling and does not smile at familiar faces, it may be among the early signs. They usually fail to make eye contact or understand normal body gestures. Overall, they remain unresponsive to people or surroundings.
These preliminary signs of autism in toddlers form the basis of further testing and diagnosis of the disorder.


Diagnosis of Autism

The parents or caregivers usually do the first step of diagnosis of autism in toddlers. Caregivers or parents are the first to notice any signs of autism in children. Persistent signs of autism in infants or toddlers need a detailed checkup for diagnosis. A diagnosis is possible only after proper testing procedures. However, there are no specific testing methods for diagnosis of autism.
 
Proper diagnosis involves testing of behavioral patterns by a panel of experts that includes psychiatrists, psychologists, pediatricians, and speech and language therapy professionals. It usually involves testing methods like the Modified Checklist of Autism in Toddlers, Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, or Childhood Autism Rating Scale. These are all lists of questions about the toddler and the toddler’s behavior. These testing procedures can help assess the cognitive and communication abilities of the toddler.
 
A physical testing can determine any associated disorders like gastrointestinal problems. The whole process of testing also includes studying family history of autism and other factors responsible. These are indispensable for designing a proper therapeutic approach to treat autism.

 
Treatment of Autism

The treatment depends upon the present condition of the toddler and his or her associated medical conditions. The therapeutic approach includes speech and behavior therapy like applied behavior analysis designed to treat signs.
 
Extensive applied behavior analysis, along with social communication skill-based therapy and antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs are effective in many cases. Early diagnosis and intervention multiplies the chances of the toddler leading a functionally independent life in the future.
 

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Signs of autism include ineffective social communication and language skills, along with stereotypical behavioral patterns. Behavioral testing methods are usually employed for diagnosis. Early diagnosis and intervention in toddlers is recommended to decrease the severity of the disorder.
autism, signs, diagnosis, toddlers, testing
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Tuesday, 29 Apr 2014 12:32 AM
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