There are different forms of autism, which have different symptoms. These were differentiated and called the autistic spectrum disorders. The number of cases of autism is increasing and autistic spectrum disorders affect more children. In case of an autistic spectrum disorder, early diagnosis is very important because the rapid detection of the condition will determine the appropriate therapy. Early treatment helps restore and improve communication and social skills.
Signs of the autistic spectrum disorders
An autism spectrum disorder affects three different areas of a child’s life:
• social interaction
• verbal and nonverbal communication
• self-care behaviors.
Each child who suffers from autism will have its own model and individual manifestation of autism. In some cases, child development can be delayed from birth. In other cases, the child with autism previously developed normally and suddenly loses its social and communication skills. In some children predominate are language problems, the others present social or unusual behavior.
Parents are the ones who notice that something is wrong with their kids. However, the diagnosis of autism is often set too late. The parents or doctor may minimize the early signs of autism. They can hope and optimistically suggest that it is just a trivial phase or a delay in development. Children who may suffer from autistic spectrum disorders should be evaluated by a team of professionals with experience in diagnosing autism.
Types of autism disorders
There are three main types of autistic spectrum disorders and two rare conditions:
Asperger Syndrome. The mildest form of autism is Asperger syndrome. It affects boys three times more often than girls. Children diagnosed with Asperger syndrome can be obsessively interested in a single object or topic. They often learn all about their favorite subject and talk about it constantly. However, their social skills are significantly impaired. They are often distracted and have difficulty coordinating physical movements. As children mature the Asperger syndrome increases the risk of anxiety and depression.
Pervasive nonspecific developmental disorder. This diagnosis applies for most children who have autistic spectrum disorders. The children whose autism form is more severe than Asperger syndrome, but not as severe as autism, will be diagnosed with nonspecific pervasive developmental disorder. Symptoms vary greatly from one case to another, which makes it quite a difficult generalization. In general, compared to other kids who suffer from autism disorders, in patients with non-specific pervasive developmental disorder there can be observed:
– loss of social interaction
– better language skills than children with autism but not as developed as those diagnosed with Asperger syndrome
– fewer repetitive behaviors than those seen in children with Asperger syndrome or autism
– an older age of onset of the condition.
However, no two children with non-specific pervasive developmental disorder have the same manifestations. Therefore, there is a clear and firm diagnostic criteria for this disorder. However, professionals who evaluate a child suspected of having symptoms of autism believe that when a child does not meet all the diagnostic criteria for classic autism, they may suffer from this condition.
Autism or Kanner’s syndrome. Children who meet the specific criteria are suffering from autism or Kanner’s syndrome. They present several severe deficiencies involving both social involvement and language, as well as a series of repetitive behaviors. Often, they have mental retardation and seizures.
Rett syndrome. Is one of the two severe forms of autism. This condition is rare and almost exclusively affects girls. Between the ages of 6 and 18 months, the child no longer interacts socially, their hands no longer move normally and lose language skills. Coordination problems that can escalate as time passes can occur. The Rett syndrome is caused usually by a genetic mutation. The mutation occurs randomly and is not necessarily inherited. Treatment focuses on physical therapy and speech therapy to stimulate and develop in order to improve language function.
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. This is the most severe form of autism. After a period of normal development, usually between 2-4 years, the child suffering from this condition loses their social skills, language and a range of intellectual abilities. Often, the child develops seizures. These children rarely may recover the lost functions. Boys are affected more often than girls.
Early diagnosis and treatment helps children with autism, depending on the severity of the disease, to develop to their fullest potential. The goal of the treatment is to improve the overall operational capacity of the child.
Symptoms and behaviors of the autistic spectrum disorders may be different and vary in severity. Also, individual symptoms and behaviors may change over time. For these reasons, treatment strategies should be tailored to individual needs and available family resources.
Most children diagnosed with autism respond best to structured and specialized treatment. The best results were obtained with treatments that have a program that can address both parents, and improve communication, social development, behavioral, adaptive and learning abilities of the children diagnosed.