Tag Archives: Leo Kanner

Question?: Pdd Nos Symptoms

Robert asks…

Can someone please explain Autism to me? My son never lost his memory or language before!?

My three year old is speech and lanuguage delayed. They are testing him for Autism.

admin answers:

“What is Autism? An Overview

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person’s ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.

Autism was first identified in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital. At the same time, a German scientist, Dr. Hans Asperger, described a milder form of the disorder that is now known as Asperger Syndrome. These two disorders are listed in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as two of the five developmental disorders that fall under the Autism Spectrum Disorders. The others are Rett Syndrome, PDD NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. All of these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, and also by repetitive behaviors. For more discussion on the range of diagnoses that comprise Autism Spectrum Disorder, click here.

Autism Spectrum Disorders can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3, although new research is pushing back the age of diagnosis to as early as 6 months. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child’s failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills. Pediatricians may initially dismiss signs of autism, thinking a child will “catch up,” and may advise parents to “wait and see.” New research shows that when parents suspect something is wrong with their child, they are usually correct. If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait: speak to your pediatrician about getting your child screened for autism.

If your child is diagnosed with autism, early intervention is critical to gain maximum benefit from existing therapies. Although parents may have concerns about labeling a toddler as “autistic,” the earlier the diagnosis is made, the earlier interventions can begin. Currently, there are no effective means to prevent autism, no fully effective treatments, and no cure. Research indicates, however, that early intervention in an appropriate educational setting for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements for many young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. As soon as autism is diagnosed, early intervention instruction should begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.”

“Did you know…
1 in 150 children is diagnosed with autism
1 in 94 boys is on the autism spectrum
67 children are diagnosed per day
A new case is diagnosed almost every 20 minutes
More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined
Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
Autism costs the nation over $90 billion per year, a figure expected to double in the next decade
Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases
Boys are four times more likely than girls to have autism
There is no medical detection or cure for autism”

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Question?: Autism Symptoms Toddler Boys

Sandy asks…

What is Autism can some one tell me?

Please explain in your own words then give me links thanks!

admin answers:

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person’s ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.

Autism was first identified in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital. At the same time, a German scientist, Dr. Hans Asperger, described a milder form of the disorder that is now known as Asperger Syndrome (read more). These two disorders are listed in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as two of the five developmental disorders that fall under the autism spectrum disorders. The others are Rett Syndrome, PDD NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. All of these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, and also by repetitive behaviors. For more discussion on the range of diagnoses that comprise autism spectrum disorder, click here.

Autism spectrum disorders can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3, although new research is pushing back the age of diagnosis to as early as 6 months. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child’s failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills. Pediatricians may initially dismiss signs of autism, thinking a child will “catch up,” and may advise parents to “wait and see.” New research shows that when parents suspect something is wrong with their child, they are usually correct. If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait: speak to your pediatrician about getting your child screened for autism.

If your child is diagnosed with autism, early intervention is critical to gain maximum benefit from existing therapies. Although parents may have concerns about labeling a toddler as “autistic,” the earlier the diagnosis is made, the earlier interventions can begin. Currently, there are no effective means to prevent autism, no fully effective treatments, and no cure. Research indicates, however, that early intervention in an appropriate educational setting for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements for many young children with autism spectrum disorders. As soon as autism is diagnosed, early intervention instruction should begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.

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Question?: Autism Symptoms Toddler Boys

Nancy asks…

what is autism some1 tell me cause its my project tell me smart person?

i need help

admin answers:

Autism speaks:
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person’s ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.

Autism was first identified in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital. At the same time, a German scientist, Dr. Hans Asperger, described a milder form of the disorder that is now known as Asperger Syndrome (read more). These two disorders are listed in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as two of the five developmental disorders that fall under the Autism Spectrum Disorders. The others are Rett Syndrome, PDD NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. All of these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, and also by repetitive behaviors. For more discussion on the range of diagnoses that comprise Autism Spectrum Disorder, click here.

Autism Spectrum Disorders can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3, although new research is pushing back the age of diagnosis to as early as 6 months. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child’s failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills. Pediatricians may initially dismiss signs of autism, thinking a child will “catch up,” and may advise parents to “wait and see.” New research shows that when parents suspect something is wrong with their child, they are usually correct. If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait: speak to your pediatrician about getting your child screened for autism.

If your child is diagnosed with autism, early intervention is critical to gain maximum benefit from existing therapies. Although parents may have concerns about labeling a toddler as “autistic,” the earlier the diagnosis is made, the earlier interventions can begin. Currently, there are no effective means to prevent autism, no fully effective treatments, and no cure. Research indicates, however, that early intervention in an appropriate educational setting for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements for many young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. As soon as autism is diagnosed, early intervention instruction should begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.

Very long but it will help you with your project.

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Question?: Autistic Kids

Linda asks…

Do you think you can tell autistic kids from their stance and speech?

I know there are no specific physical traits (my son is autistic) but I have noticed that many (not all) autistic kids speak in a certain way and even sit/stand in a certain way. I don’t mean stimming, I just mean even without stimming, do they have a noticeably different gait? Maybe it’s just my imagination, I was just wondering what people have noticed and if anyone knows why.

admin answers:

Yes I do think so. Speech is interesting. It’s almost like an ‘autistic accent’- possibly due to the way they process language (in an echolalic way?). They also tend to be quite stiff. Leo Kanner actually mentioned the weird way autistic kids he observed sat. It may be due to sensory dysfuction. I’m not sure why, but I agree with you.

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‘Classic’ autism / autism disorder‘Classic’ autism / autism disorder‘Classic’ autism / autism disorder

‘Classic’ autism / autism disorder

In children with these pervasive developmental disorders there is substantial delay in communication and social interaction associated with the development of “restricted, repetitive and stereotyped” behavior, interests, and activities.
This implies that most people suffering from an ASD will have difficulties in all aspects of life including learning, work, relationships, etc.

Professor Eugen Bleuler, director of the Burgh... Image via Wikipedia

Autism affects each individual differently and at different levels of severity. Some individuals with autism are severely affected, cannot speak, require constant one-on-one care, and are never ableto live on their own. Others have less severe ASD, can communicate, and eventually acquire thenecessary skills to live on their own.
It is important to understand that autism is a disorder that affects not only the autistic individual,but has implications for family, caretakers, and educators as well.
In the next paragraph and in the following chapters, we shall take a closer look at the differentforms Autism Spectrum Disorder can take.

First we will examine autism disorder.
The word ‘autism’ was coined by a psychiatrist named Eugen Bleuler in 1911, when he used theGreek word “autos,” which means self. Bleuler also coined the term Schizophrenia, 3 years previously, in 1908.

Despite this, autism wasn’t given any name until 1938, when a major breakthrough occurred. Inthat year a psychiatrist named Leo Kanner, for the first time ever, observed the behavior of 11children at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA. They had previously, and incorrectly,been characterized as either emotionally disturbed or intellectually impaired. Although some ofthem seemed to fit into the latter category, there were also aspects of their behaviors and abilitiesthat distinguished them from the ones in this category.

During the next few years Kanner researched the condition intensely. This research culminated inthe 1943 publication called “Autistic Disturbance of Affective Contact.” Kanner correctly wrote thatautism appeared to be an inborn developmental disability that affects social and emotionalunderstanding. Leo Kanner noticed that the children all had the same traits.

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Discover the Signs of Autism

Autism is considered to be a variety of mental retardation, or an occasion as a severe form of obsessive-compulsive illness. The first term of autism appeared around 1912 when psychiatrist Eugene Bleurel used the word to refer to patients who were self-absorbed and out of touch with the rest of the world. The term autism is derived from the Greek word autos, meaning self.

The term shows the communicative isolation that is the foremost feature of the illness. In fact the term referred to schizophrenic individuals who displayed catatonic behaviours and not to autistic patients as it is known today. The autistic syndrome may be described as mental retardation or mental illness. A mild form of autism identified as Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder and it was discovered by Dr. Hans Asperger.

A more general description of autism described by Dr. Leo Kanner was provided. Both doctors recognized the intense isolation experienced by their child patients was the central function of the condition. Mental retardation and obsessive-compulsive disorder is unquestioned today but researchers refined Drs. Kanner and Asperger’s work. Autism is thought as a family of related diseases which today are known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs).

Three other conditions round out the pervasive developmental disorder family Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Asperger’s Disorder. Another diagnosis, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) is used to indicate PDDs of unknown origin. All these developmental disorders are characterized by communication and social impairments. Different causes for the underlying impairments are different one from another; they differ by profiles and intensities of impairment typical of each condition.

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Autism spectrum disorders are synonymous with pervasive developmental disorders. A person can have a pervasive developmental disorder and not carry the diagnosis of autism in particular. Because of their insidious nature of autism spectrum of disorders are difficult to recognize. Parents are seldom motivated to assume the worst about their children’s atypical behaviour and symptoms until they become impossible to ignore. Most parents do not bring their children in for formal diagnosis until they are between 18 months and three years of age. As time goes by parents and physicians learn what to look for and more children are diagnosed at earlier ages.

Methods and techniques for identifying pervasive developmental disorders early continue to be refined. The preferred method for identifying autism and related pervasive developmental disorders the behavioral observation has been preferred. Children’s lack of eye contact and social reciprocity are recognized as the major causes of autism. A characteristic of autism and related disorders is the presence of the stereotyped repetitive movements. When they are concerned about a PDD like autism it can be difficult for parents to know what specific signs to look for. A list of warning signs and milestones all revolving around the crucial team of communication deficits.

Such circumstances should be concerned about his child if: the child does not: babble or coo by twelve months, use gestures to communicate and the child does not wave, grasp objects or point to objects by twelve months, say single words by the age of sixteen months and does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months, the child has a loss of any language or social skills at any age. Only a psychiatrist or psychologist observes the child’s behaviour and interviews the parents or guardians he may administer one or more formal tests designed to measure PDD-like behaviour and compare it to normal children behaviour so that the degree of the child’s impairments can be determined.

The doctor will review the test results and observation notes and make a diagnosis based on observable criteria.

It is important for a parent to observe a child’s behaviour and verify its mental health. This method will show if any case of autism appears and it is true also that a specialist should be consult.

More informations about autism symptoms or about autism symptoms checklist can be found by visiting http://www.autism-info-center.com/
More informations about autism symptoms or about autism symptoms checklist can be found by visiting http://www.autism-info-center.com/
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Understanding the Notion of Borderline Autism

The concept of autism can sometimes be very confusing. The syndrome first explained by Austrian psychiatrist Leo Kanner in the 40’s has generated many controversial opinions throughout the course of history. Autism is a very complex neurological disorder that can lead to different forms of behavioral, communicational, social and cognitive impairment. People with autism rarely fit the standard symptomatic profile introduced by medical scientists in the past. In fact, the syndrome generates a very wide spectrum of symptoms that can be experienced on multiple levels and at various intensities.

In most cases, the criteria of diagnosis introduced by Rutter and other scientists may be enough to identify some categories of autistic children. However, some children may only present some characteristics of autism, showing no other signs of the disorder. Contemporary medical scientists have argued many times whether it is appropriate to consider this category of children autistic or not. Patients who partially fit the autistic profile could be referred to as “borderline”. The concept of borderline autism is very common these days and it generally includes patients who show clear signs of abnormality but they only reveal some symptoms of Kanner’s syndrome. In the past, many children with borderline autism were inappropriately diagnosed with psychosis or schizophrenia.

Patients who don’t fit the exact profile of autism but present certain signs of the syndrome might nowadays be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Due to their common features, Asperger’s Syndrome and Kanner’s Syndrome were considered to be the same concept. Many scientists believed that Asperger’s Syndrome described a milder form of autism, while others completely failed to distinguish between them. In fact, the syndrome discovered by Asperger described patients who didn’t fit the exact pattern of autism and hence, it could be referred to as a form of “borderline autism”. Asperger’s Syndrome revealed how difficult it was to draw the line between autistic and normal children, proving that it was possible for patients to have only certain characteristics of autism.

As Asperger’s theories became popular, many children that have been previously diagnosed with “mild” autism were now considered to suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome seemed more responsive to external stimuli and presented less preoccupation to sameness. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome also seemed to have higher levels of performance intelligence and better communicational skills. Unlike autistic children, who hardly made any progress as they reached more advanced stages of development, some children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome could be partially recovered in early childhood. With the help of specific medical treatments and with the means of appropriate educational programs, most children with Asperger’s Syndrome showed signs of improvement on both behavioral and communicational levels.

Nowadays, most patients diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome can be successfully integrated into the society and they can even live their lives independently. As adults, many patients with Asperger’s Syndrome have proved to be very responsible and socially aware, showing few signs of neurological impairment.

So, if you want to find out more about Autism, and especially about autism causes or signs of autism, please click one of the following link.
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Bordereline Autism Is Confusing

The concept of autism can sometimes be very confusing. The syndrome first explained by Austrian psychiatrist Leo Kanner in the 40’s has generated many controversial opinions throughout the course of history. Autism is a very complex neurological disorder that can lead to different forms of behavioral, communicational, social and cognitive impairment. People with autism rarely fit the standard symptomatic profile introduced by medical scientists in the past. In fact, the syndrome generates a very wide spectrum of symptoms that can be experienced on multiple levels and at various intensities.

In most cases, the criteria of diagnosis introduced by Rutter and other scientists may be enough to identify some categories of autistic children. However, some children may only present some characteristics of autism, showing no other signs of the disorder. Contemporary medical scientists have argued many times whether it is appropriate to consider this category of children autistic or not. Patients who partially fit the autistic profile could be referred to as “borderline”. The concept of borderline autism is very common these days and it generally includes patients who show clear signs of abnormality but they only reveal some symptoms of Kanner’s syndrome. In the past, many children with borderline autism were inappropriately diagnosed with psychosis or schizophrenia.

Patients who don’t fit the exact profile of autism but present certain signs of the syndrome might nowadays be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Due to their common features, Asperger’s Syndrome and Kanner’s Syndrome were considered to be the same concept. Many scientists believed that Asperger’s Syndrome described a milder form of autism, while others completely failed to distinguish between them. In fact, the syndrome discovered by Asperger described patients who didn’t fit the exact pattern of autism and hence, it could be referred to as a form of “borderline autism”. Asperger’s Syndrome revealed how difficult it was to draw the line between autistic and normal children, proving that it was possible for patients to have only certain characteristics of autism.  

As Asperger’s theories became popular, many children that have been previously diagnosed with “mild” autism were now considered to suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome seemed more responsive to external stimuli and presented less preoccupation to sameness. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome also seemed to have higher levels of performance intelligence and better communicational skills. Unlike autistic children, who hardly made any progress as they reached more advanced stages of development, some children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome could be partially recovered in early childhood. With the help of specific medical treatments and with the means of appropriate educational programs, most children with Asperger’s Syndrome showed signs of improvement on both behavioral and communicational levels.

Nowadays, most patients diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome can be successfully integrated into the society and they can even live their lives independently. As adults, many patients with Asperger’s Syndrome have proved to be very responsible and socially aware, showing few signs of neurological impairment.

Information on polenta benefits, polenta nutrition , polenta facts, can be found at the Health And Nutrition Tips site.
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History Of Autism Pioneers

Autism does not have a long history, and this is due to the fact that the history of autism really didn’t begin until the first decade of the 20th century. Although, autism as a condition was around prior to this time, it was not a recognized condition and most people would have been regarded as insane. In fact, it wasn’t even until the Swiss psychiatrist, Eugene Bleuler, coined the term “autism” in the 1912 issue of the American Journal of Insanity, did the term even exist.

However, despite being the first person to use the term, Bleuler considered autism to be another form of schizophrenia in which schizophrenic’s lacked social skills with others, and were more absorbed in themselves. Bleuler’s study was the beginning of the history of autism.

Although Bleuler may have been the first to recognize one of the most common traits of autistics, there were three other pioneers of autism who really set the wheels of autism research in motion. These three doctors had a huge impact on what people believed autism was in the mid 1900’s, as well as how the disorder is recognized today.

Dr. Leo Kanner – (1894 – 1981) – Dr. Leo Kanner was an Austrian-American psychiatrist, who was one of the first to specialize in child psychology. Kanner, a doctor at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital, is credited with recognizing autism as its own unique mental disorder. According to the history of autism, Kanner created the label early infantile autism, which he wrote about in 1943 in the journal “The Nervous Child”.

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In his report, Kanner discussed his research based on a group of eleven children who all closely displayed the following traits:

• Social interaction difficulties
• Difficulty processing and adapting to changes
• Particularly good memory
• Belated echolalia (repeating speech made by others)
• Exceedingly sensitive to sounds, and other stimulants
• Food issues
• Good intellectual potential

He used the term autism to describe the main characteristic all the children he studied displayed – little to no interest in socializing with other people.

Dr. Hans Asperger (1906-1980) – Dr. Hans Asperger, was a scientist and pediatrician. He is best known in the history of autism for defining Asperger Syndrome – a specific type of high functioning autism. The first time he defined Asperger syndrome was in 1944, when he studied 4 young boys and, like Kanner, found that each child displayed similar characteristics. He identified these characteristic behaviors as autistic psychopathy.

Although Asperger identified most of the same traits as Kanner, he didn’t note his group having delayed echolalia. Alternatively, he said that the children had clumsy movements and irregular motor skills compared to regular children, and also that they talked much like grown ups. Asperger referred to them as “little professors”.

Unfortunately, the findings of Dr. Hans Asperger regarding autism were not widely discovered until the late 1980’s even though his reports occurred much earlier in the history of autism. It is believed that there were two main reasons why Asperger did not receive the recognition he deserved until much later than his original observations. The first reason was his findings were delayed due to World War II. The second was that his work wasn’t written in English and was not translated until almost 50 years later.

Dr. Bruno Bettelhiem (1903-1990) – Bruno Bettelheim was an Austrian-American writer and child psychologist. Bettelheim developed his own theories on autism and is best known for his theory of the “refrigerator mother”. In his work “The Empty Fortress”(1967), Bettelheim wrote about three therapy sessions with children who had infantile autism. He claimed that their disorder was caused by having emotionally cold mothers. His theory was widely accepted, and for many years, parents (particularly mothers) were considered the problem behind autism.

For information on recognizing and treating autism sign up for the free Autism newsletter below.

Today, Bettelhiem’s theory has been disregarded by most. However, the characteristics described by Kanner and Asperger are still used to define the basic behavioral patterns of autistics. Nevertheless, all of these men have made a serious mark on the history of autism.
Rachel Evans. Sign up for a free newsletter about autism and discover more on the signs and symptoms of autism.
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A New Approach to Treatment for Some Forms of Autism

 

What do we mean when we say autism is a ‘spectrum disorder?’

When the term, ‘spectrum disorder’ is used it means that there are a range of symptoms, which can be attributed to autism. Any one individual may display any combination of these symptoms, in differing degrees of severity. Therefore an individual at one end of the autistic spectrum may seem very different to an individual at the other end of the spectrum.

Who first discovered autism?

Autism was first recognised in the mid 1940’s by a psychiatrist called Leo Kanner. He described a group of children, whom he was treating, who presented with some very unusual symptoms such as; – atypical social development, irregular development of communication and language, and recurring / repetitive and obsessional behaviour with aversion to novelty and refusal to accept change. His first thoughts were that they were suffering some sort of childhood psychiatric disorder.

At around the same time that Kanner was grappling with the problems of these children, a German scientist, Hans Asperger was caring for a group of children whose behaviour also seemed irregular. Asperger suggested that these children were suffering from what he termed ‘autistic psychopathy.’ These children experienced remarkably similar symptoms to the children described by Kanner, with a single exception. – Their language development was normal! There is still an ongoing debate as to whether autism and Asperger’s syndrome are separable conditions, or whether Asperger’s syndrome is merely a mild form of autism.

What is the cause of autism?

In the 1960s and 1970s there arose a theory that autism was caused by abnormal family relationships. This led on to the ‘refrigerator mother’ theory, which claimed that autism in the child was caused by cold, emotionless mothers! (Bettleheim, 1967). However the weight of evidence quickly put this theory to bed as evidence was found to support the idea that the real cause was to be found in abnormalities in the brain. This evidence was quickly followed by findings, which clearly demonstrated that the EEG’s of children with autism were, in many cases, atypical and the fact that a large proportion of children also suffered from epilepsy.

From this time, autism has been looked upon as a disorder, which develops as a consequence of abnormal brain development. Recently, evidence has shown that in some cases, the abnormal brain development may be caused by specific genes.

However, we should not forget that genes can only express themselves if the appropriate environmental conditions exist for them to do so and so, we should not rule out additional, environmental causes for autism. We should not forget that autism can also be caused by brain-injury, that an insult to the brain can produce the same effects as can abnormal development of the brain, which may have been caused by genetic and other environmental factors. I have seen too many children who have suffered oxygen starvation at birth, who have gone on to display symptoms of autism. So, it is my view that autism can also be caused by brain-injury.

There are also other possibilities, which can ultimately produce the type of brain dysfunction, which we recognise as autism. There is a great deal of research being carried out at the moment in the area of ‘oxidative stress’ and methylation and it’s effects upon the integrity of neural networks. There is also the debate surrounding mercury levels in vaccines, which is as of yet, unresolved.

The fact is that ‘many roads lead to Rome.’ – There are likely to be several factors both genetic and environmental, which can ultimately lead to the type of brain dysfunction, which we call autism.

 

So, how do we recognise autism?

On a descriptive level, autism involves a dysfunction of the brain’s systems, which control communication, socialisation, imagination and sensory perception. My theory is that it is the distortions of sensory perception, which are so characteristic of autism, which exacerbates many (but not all) of the other difficulties. Imagine a child suffering from autism who suffers distortions of sensory perception. For instance, the child who suffers distortions of visual perception, might find situations which require eye -contact to be exceptionally threatening, or on the other end of the scale might become obsessive about specific visual stimuli. The child who suffers distortions of tactile perception, might at one end of the spectrum find any situation which requires physical contact to be terrifying, whilst at the other end of the spectrum, they might be a ‘sensation seeker’ to the point of becoming self -injurious. The child who suffers distortions of auditory perception might at one end of the spectrum, be terrified of sounds of a certain pitch or intensity, whereas at the other end of the spectrum, they might actively seek out, or become obsessive about certain sounds.

 

Treatment

The question is, what can we do to help redress these distortions of sensory perception. Well, we believe we can learn from the newborn baby. When baby is born, he sleeps for most of the time, only spending short periods of time interacting with this new environment in which he finds himself; – a new environment which bombards his senses with new sights, noises and smells. So he retreats into the safe, calm environment of sleep, which provides the sensory safe haven which up until recently was the sanctuary of the womb. Very gradually, as baby adjusts his sensory system to his new environment, he spends more and more time in the waking world, interacting and learning to communicate, – but he adjusts very gradually!

There is possibly a neurological explanation for this. There are structures within the brain, which act to ‘tune’ sensory attention. These three structures, which allow us to tune our attention are structures, which enables us to ‘tune out’ background interference when we wish to selectively attend to something in particular. They also enables us to ‘tune in’ to another stimulus when we are attending to something completely different. They are the same mechanisms of the brain, which allows us to listen to what our friend is saying to us, even when we are standing in the midst of heavy traffic on a busy road. It is these mechanisms that allow us, even though we are in conversation in a crowded room, to hear our name being spoken by someone else across that room. It is these mechanisms, which allow a mother to sleep though various loud, night-time noises such as her husband snoring, or an aeroplane passing overhead and yet the instant her new baby stirs, she is woken. It is a remarkable feature of the human brain and it is the responsibility of three structures operating cooperatively; – these are the ascending reticular activating formation, the thalamus and the limbic system.

Having made such a bold claim, allow me to furnish you with the evidence to support it. The three structures just mentioned receive sensory information from the sense organs and relay the information to specific areas of the cortex. The thalamus in particular is responsible for controlling the general excitability of the cortex (whether that excitability tunes the cortex up to be overexcited, tunes it down to be under excited, or tunes it inwardly to selectively attend to it’s own internal sensory world.) (Carlson, 2007). The performance of these neurological structures, or in the case of our children, their distorted performance seems to be at the root of the sensory problems faced not only by newborn babies, but the sensory difficulties our children face and yes, as the newborn shows, their performance CAN be influenced, – they can be re-tuned.

I believe the sensory system of some children with autism is experiencing similar difficulties to that of a newborn, – at one end of the autistic spectrum, the cortex is being over-excited by these structures and the person is overwhelmed and has difficulty accommodating the mass of sensory stimulation within the environment. At the other end of the autistic spectrum, the cortex is being under-excited and the person has trouble in perceiving sensory stimulation from the environment. The question is; – How do we facilitate the re-tuning of this neurological system in individuals who have autism

The newborn retreats into sleep, a self imposed dampening of incoming sensory information. Whilst the child with autism does not do this, many children with autism attempt to withdraw from their environment because they find it so threatening.

We believe at Snowdrop that for the child at the end of the autistic spectrum who is suffering an amplification of sensory stimulation, we should create a setting where he can retreat from a world, which is overwhelming his immature sensory system. This ‘adapted environment,’ which should be as free as possible from all visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory stimulation will serve as a milieu where his sensory system can re-tune itself. Of course it may just be a single sense like vision, or hearing, or tactility, or any combination of senses, which are causing the difficulties and the environment may be adapted appropriately. The child suffering these difficulties will usually welcome this adapted environment, which is in effect a ‘safe haven’ for his immature sensory system. He should be given free access to, or placed within the adapted environment as needed and you will notice hopefully that he will relax and begin to enjoy being within its safe confines, where there are no sensory surprises.

This procedure should be continued for as long as necessary, – for several weeks or months. Indeed, some children might always need periods of time within the ‘safe haven.’ As the child begins to accept and be at ease in his safe haven, stimulation in whatever sensory modality is causing the difficulties, should begin to be introduced at a very low level, so low in fact that it is hardly noticeable. If the child tolerates this, then it can be used more frequently until it becomes an accepted part of the sensory environment. If the child reacts negatively in any way, then the stimulus is withdrawn and reintroduced at a later date. In this way, we can very gradually begin to build the level of tolerance, which the child has towards the stimulus.

For the child at the other end of the autistic spectrum, the child whose sensory attentional system is not exciting the cortex enough, with the consequence that he is not noticing enough of the stimulation in his sensory environment, the approach needs to be the exact opposite. These are the children who we see producing self-stimulatory behaviour. I believe that this behaviour is an attempt by the nervous system to provide itself with what it needs from the environment, – a sensory message of greater intensity! We see many children with autism ‘flapping’ their hands in front of their eyes, or becoming visually obsessed by certain toys, movements, colours etc. I propose that this is a reaction by the nervous system to attempt to increase the intensity, frequency and duration of the sensory stimulus due to a problem with perceiving visual stimuli from the environment.

Of course, children with autism display a far greater range of difficulties than a theory, focused upon a malfunctioning sensory – attentional system could explain. I am not attempting to claim that sensory problems on their own are an adequate explanation for every facet of autism, – that would be ridiculous! This is merely a possible explanation of a range of issues experienced by some children who have autism, which could be produced or exacerbated by the child suffering distortions of sensory perception. For instance, the following symptoms within the autistic spectrum could possibly be explained at the sensory level.

Failure to make eye contact.

Difficulty in sharing attention with anyone.

Avoiding interaction with others

Avoiding physical contact

Seeming disconnected from the environment.

Appearing not to notice anything visually.

Visual distraction, as though the child is looking at something which you cannot see.

Visual obsession with particular features of the environment.

Inability to ‘switch’ visual attention from one feature of the environment to another.

General discomfort with the visual environment.

Appearing not to hear anything.

Auditory distraction, as though listening to something which you cannot hear.

Auditory obsession with particular sounds within the environment.

Inability to ‘switch’ auditory attention from one sound within the environment to another.

Inability to ‘tune out’ extraneous sounds in the environment.

General discomfort with the auditory environment.

Appearing not to feel much sensation.

Appearing to bee distracted by tactile stimuli of which you are not aware.

Obsession with particular tactile sensations within the environment.

Appears unable to ‘switch’ tactile attention from one sensation to another.

General discomfort with the tactile environment.

Difficulty in communicating with others.

 

 

 

We believe at Snowdrop, that our sensory re-tuning environments offer the best chance for children to overcome such distortions of sensory perception.

 


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