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The facts

Autism Spectrum Disorder

 
 

A serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact.

 
 

Autism spectrum disorder impacts the nervous system.

 
 

The range and severity of symptoms can vary widely. Common symptoms include difficulty with communication, difficulty with social interactions, obsessive interests, and repetitive behaviors.

Early recognition, as well as behavioral, educational, and family therapies may reduce symptoms and support development and learning.

We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.

Indicators of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.

By 6 months

  • Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions.

  • Limited or no eye contact.

By 9 months

  • Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions

By 12 months

  • Little or no babbling

  • Little or no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving

  • Little or no response to name.

By 16 months

  • Very few or no words.

By 24 months

  • Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)

At any age

  • Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills

  • Avoidance of eye contact

  • Persistent preference for solitude

  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings

  • Delayed language development

  • Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)

  • Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings

  • Restricted interests

  • Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)

  • Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors

 

4-35%

autistic adults are also affected by schizophrenia

1/3

also have Epilepsy

 

$60k

annual costs of a child with autism

65%

are bullied

 
Sully Houweling

Sully Houweling

 

Many professionals felt Asperger’s syndrome was simply a milder form of autism and used the term “high-functioning autism” to describe these individuals.

Asperger’s Syndrome

 

What distinguishes Asperger’s Disorder from classic autism are its less severe symptoms and the absence of language delays. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may be only mildly affected, and they frequently have good language and cognitive skills. To the untrained observer, a child with Asperger’s Disorder may just seem like a neurotypical child behaving differently.

Children with autism are frequently viewed as aloof and uninterested in others. This is not the case with Asperger’s Disorder. Individuals with Asperger’s Disorder usually want to fit in and have interaction with others, but often they don’t know how to do it. They may be socially awkward, not understand conventional social rules or show a lack of empathy. They may have limited eye contact, seem unengaged in a conversation and not understand the use of gestures or sarcasm.

Their interests in a particular subject may border on the obsessive. Children with Asperger’s Disorder often like to collect categories of things, such as rocks or bottle caps. They may be proficient in knowledge categories of information, such as baseball statistics or Latin names of flowers. They may have good rote memory skills but struggle with abstract concepts.

One of the major differences between Asperger’s Disorder and autism is that, by definition, there is no speech delay in Asperger’s. In fact, children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently have good language skills; they simply use language in different ways. Speech patterns may be unusual, lack inflection or have a rhythmic nature, or may be formal, but too loud or high-pitched. Children with Asperger’s Disorder may not understand the subtleties of language, such as irony and humor, or they may not understand the give-and-take nature of a conversation.

Another distinction between Asperger’s Disorder and autism concerns cognitive ability. While some individuals with autism have intellectual disabilities, by definition, a person with Asperger’s Disorder cannot have a “clinically significant” cognitive delay, and most possess average to above-average intelligence.

While motor difficulties are not a specific criterion for Asperger’s, children with Asperger’s Disorder frequently have motor skill delays and may appear clumsy or awkward.

 
 

Rett syndrome is a unique postnatal neurological disorder that is first recognized in infancy and seen almost always in girls, but can be rarely seen in boys. 

Rett Syndrome

 
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Strikes all racial and ethnic groups, and occurs worldwide in 1 of every 10,000 female births.

Rett syndrome has been most often misdiagnosed as autism, cerebral palsy, or non-specific developmental delay.

Rett syndrome is caused by mutations on the X chromosome on a gene called MECP2. There are more than 200 different mutations found on the MECP2 gene. Most of these mutations are found in eight different “hot spots.”

Symptoms appear after an early period of apparently normal or near normal development until six to eighteen months of life, when there is a slowing down or stagnation of skills. A period of regression then follows when she loses communication skills and purposeful use of her hands.

Soon, stereotyped hand movements such as handwashing, gait disturbances, and slowing of the normal rate of head growth become apparent. Other problems may include seizures and disorganized breathing patterns while she is awake. In the early years, there may be a period of isolation or withdrawal when she is irritable and cries inconsolably. Over time, motor problems may increase, but in general, irritability lessens and eye contact and communication improve.

Rett syndrome can present with a wide range of disability ranging from mild to severe. The course and severity of Rett syndrome is determined by the location, type and severity of her mutation and X-inactivation. Therefore, two girls of the same age with the same mutation can appear quite different.