Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Autism is a wide spectrum of disorders that overlap among each other yet has distinct characteristics making each case unique, even among siblings. Collectively, they are called Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Any of these disorders can affect both children and adults. Currently, it has NO known cures. They are also genetic in nature. According to recent data from the CDC, this developmental disorder affects 1 out of every 68 children in the U.S. alone. Though it is known to affect more boys than girls, grouping together a child’s symptoms can be tough. To understand ASD better, here are some basic markers to consider:

Autistic Disorder 
Simply referred to as “autism,” it is also recently being described as “mind-blindness” or the lack of Theory of Mind, creating major barriers in communication and socialization. This collection of neurological and developmental disorders is usually diagnosed in the first 3 years of life. A child with autistic disorder engages in repetitive behaviors, appears to have a world of his own, shows little or no interest in others, and has obvious lack of social awareness. A child with autism is often focused on consistent routine with interest transfixed in repetitively odd or peculiar behavior. Almost always, children with autism have communication issues, avoid direct eye contact, and manifests limited attachment to others.

Regressive Autism Spectrum Disorder
Regressive ASD is sometimes referred to as autistic regression or autism with regression, or acquired autistic syndrome and setback-type autism. It usually occurs when a seemingly normal child starts to lose speech and social skills from 15-30 months of age. Amid researches and studies done over the years, however, there is still no definite distinction between autism with- and without regression. Some believe that this type of autism is just an early-onset autism diagnosed at a later date. Some feature early delays while others are diagnosed after later losses. This is believed to affect approximately 20-30% of children in the spectrum.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
Called PDD-NOS or atypical personality development, this type of autism refers to the “sub-threshold” condition wherein some, but not all features of ASD or other explicitly identified PDD are identified in a child. PDD-NOS is a diagnosis which covers cases marking impairment of communication, social interaction, stereotyped behavioral patterns and interest—but does not include autism’s full features or explicitly defined pervasive personality disorder/PDD. Take note that most of those in PDD-NOS have less impaired social skills than those in “classical” autism.

Asperger’s Syndrome
Also known simply as Asperger’s or Asperger Disorder, this ASD is usually diagnosed between the ages 2-6. A child with Asperger’s manifests good verbal skills and good cognitive skills but is rather clumsy, socially awkward, and often engages in odd, repetitive behaviors and interests. This is named after Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, who conducted a study on a group of children in 1944.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
Known as Heller’s syndrome or disintegrative psychosis, this type of ASD is very rare. Children with seemingly normal development suddenly lose motor, social, and language skills around the ages 2 to 4. This severe regression usually presents a dramatic loss of skills and can develop later than autism does.

Rett Syndrome
Coined after Dr. Andreas Rett’s study, Rett’s Syndrome or Rett’s Disorder is a condition that used to be called cerebroatrophic hyperammonemia. This is an extreme form of ASD characterized by zero verbal skills with 50% not being able to walk. Most of those who have Rett’s have small hands and feet, with notable deceleration of head growth, repetitive stereotypical hand movements, and some 80% experience seizures. Scoliosis, growth failure, and other gastrointestinal disorders are also common for children with Rett’s Syndrome. Almost all of the cases reported under this spectrum occur in girls, but studies reveal that this can also affect boys.

As more and more research is being conducted on Autism Spectrum Disorders, we can only surmise that more types of autism will be identified.  Geneticists recently pointed out that the right term to be used is “autisms”(plural) rather than “autism” due to the variety of genetic forms the developmental disorder represents.

When diagnosing Autism, parents should seek professional diagnoses from specially trained professionals, including pediatricians, psychologists, school counselors, and others. Lists can be found at http://livingautismnow.com/directory and http://www.autism-society.org.

By Pamela Bryson-Weaver, author of Living Autism Day by Day: Daily Reflections and Strategies to Give You Hope and Courage. Bryson-Weaver, whose youngest son has autism, is the past president of the Autism Society in New Brunswick. www.livingautismnow.com

Sources:
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin,
WebMD, Livestrong and 
Yale School of Medicine



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  1. Movies Under the Stars: School of Rock

    June 23 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
    June 23, 2017  |  7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
    Corporal Thompson Park
    Join NYC Parks and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment for a free film. Know Before You Go: You should arrive before 7:00 p.m. to get your spot. Feel free to bring a blanket to sit
  2. Gentle Flow Yoga

    June 24 @ 10:00 am - July 22 @ 11:00 am
    June 24, 2017  |  10:00 am - 11:00 am
    Alice Austen House Museum
    Join us on the lawn of Clear Comfort for yoga every other Saturday this summer. Led by Be Yoga & Dance in partnership with Shape Up NYC.
  3. Day at the Races

    June 24 @ 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
    June 24, 2017  |  11:00 am - 6:00 pm
    Monmouth Racetrack
    3rd Annual “Day at the Races,” a Jaimes’s LILAC foundation fundraiser at Monmouth Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ. Saturday- June 24- 11am to 6pm; tickets are $40 adults- $20 children - includes entrance and all you can eat.
  4. Zentangle 101

    June 24 @ 11:00 am
    June 24, 2017  |  11:00 am - 11:00 am
    South Beach Library
  5. Storytime: “The Rainbow Fish”

    June 24 @ 11:00 am
    June 24, 2017  |  11:00 am - 11:00 am
    Barnes & Noble
    This modern classic is celebrating its 25th year in print! With eye-catching foil stamping glittering on every page, it offers instant child appeal. But it is the universal message at the heart of this story about a beautiful fish who
  6. Homework Help

    June 24 @ 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
    June 24, 2017  |  11:00 am - 4:00 pm
    New Dorp Library
    11am-1pm & 2pm-4pm High School volunteers are offering their services to help with reading and math! Reading:Prek -Third grade, Math: prek to eighth grade. First come first served. Sign up lists will start the day of each session when library
  7. Music & Movement

    June 24 @ 11:00 am
    June 24, 2017  |  11:00 am - 11:00 am
    New Dorp Library
  8. FREE Family Fun Day

    June 24 @ 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    June 24, 2017  |  12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    Conference House Park
    Rain date June 25. Face painting, costume characters, giveaways, zumba, cotton candy, food, music, popcorn, ice cream, drinks. For more info call Tom Crimmins Realty 718-370-3200.
  9. Food Truck Festival at The Mount

    June 24 @ 12:00 pm - 8:00 pm
    June 24, 2017  |  12:00 pm - 8:00 pm
    Mount Loretto
    Join us at Mount Loretto on June 24th and 25th from Noon-8pm each day for our Second Annual Food Truck Festival Presented by ShopRite! If you think last year’s event was big…you ain’t seen nothing yet! This event will feature
  10. Beehive and Honeycomb paintings

    June 24 @ 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    June 24, 2017  |  1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
    SI Children's Museum
    Arts Vocabulary; create mixed media Beehive and Honeycomb paintings.