Picking up on social cues, engaging in activities with large groups, and making friends are actions that come naturally for most, but for people on the Autism Spectrum Disorder these interactions can be extremely stressful.
Autism begins in the early stages of brain development, but symptoms emerge between babies 12 and 18 months old yet cannot be definitely diagnosed until the child is 18 to 24 months of age. 40 percent of autism cases have average or above abilities intellectually while others have great complications and can’t live alone. Autism is becoming more common, 1 in 68 American children are on the spectrum but is four to five times more common in boys than girls.
Researchers have discovered there is not just one cause of this disorder. A combination of autism risk genes and environmental risk factors are both influences on early brain development. One of the first reasons parents suspect something is if their children miss the “developmental milestones”. Environmental risk factors including parents age, illness during pregnancy, difficulties during birth, prematurity and very low weight all increase the children’s risk in addition with genetic risk. A small amount of research is beginning to suggest mother’s lowered their risk by taking prenatal vitamins containing folic acid before and during pregnancy. Only in about 15 percent of cases is there a specific genetic cause that can be identified.
A very common myth is that vaccines are to blame yet researchers have conducted many studies paying extra close attention to the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and no link exists between the immunization and autism.
Although there are no definite treatments, recently researchers at UCLA have treated a mouse model on the ASD with molecules used by neurons to communicate with each other, a neuropeptide, called oxytocin. Findings have suggested that the earlier the treatment is given in the patients life leads to longer lasting effects, leading to times of critical treatment where it is more effective than others.
Just because a child has autism doesn’t define them. My brother is on the autism spectrum and can partake in conversations and for the most part is pretty independent. David and I were both adopted (from different families) and doctors assume a part of the reason why he is the way he is because his biological mother drank alcohol or used drugs while pregnant. At birth, he didn’t know how to suck, refused to eat much, and cried much more than the average baby. David knows that he is autistic yet doesn’t let that stop him from chasing his dreams. Although he may struggle with school at times, he is extremely talented at video games and playing the piano. As awkward as he can be, his friends still accept him and overall he has a very good life. Occasionally our family will have to leave wherever we are because it is too loud or a smell is bothering him. He is one of the funniest, intelligent, unique people I know and I’m so thankful for him.