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Autism - a Rare Disease

Essay by   •  September 10, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,428 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,866 Views

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Autism is a rare disease that has been noticed for centuries. The purest form of autism (high IQ and almost normal behavior yet still self-contained) occurs in about "one in 2,000 people". When the many other forms of autism are added in, the ratio is "one in 750". Autism is found in every race, ethnic group, nation, and social standing, although "males outnumber females by four or five times" ("Autistic Disorder" - 2).

Autism is a broad range of disorders that stretch from mild to severe. There are many theories on the cause of autism, but no definite solution. Because of the broadness of the disease, there are many types and categories. The effects of autism are frustrating, and hard to live with. Since the causes remain unknown, there are no specific treatments that can cure autism.

The first signs of autism are shown within the first three years of life. As an infant, parents will notice that the child is distant and does not respond to many things. The baby usually doesn't develop any bonds with his/her mother or caretaker. When parents go to pick up an autistic child, he/she will seem rigid, limp, and will not do normal things like reach out for the parent. Another symptom is little to no eye contact. As with autism at any age, the child is obsessed with sameness and routines. For example, a child will want to eat the same foods every day at the same time. Inanimate objects also fascinate autistic children, though they do not use them as they are intended. They will play with a single toy for hours at a time. Autism was once thought to be the result of cold and distant parents. If the mother disliked or did not want the baby, it was thought that the baby knew this and would enclose itself in its own world. That theory has now been disproven and many scientists now believe autism is caused by

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genetics and/or illnesses. There are many stated genetic and biological causes but none seem unique to autism. Likewise, no specific gene has been targeted to cause autism. New evidence reveals that "the serotonin-transpoter gene" (Rapin, Isabelle - 101) may be related to the cause of this disease. Complications in birth are also taken into consideration. "Prenatal factors are intrauterine rubella, tuberous selerosis, chromosomal abnormalities, and brain abnormalities. Perinatal factors have little to no effect on autism. Postnatal factors include untreated phenylketonuria, infantile spasms, focal brain lesion, and rarely herpes simplex encephalitis and other rare diseases or syndromes. Evidence that genetics is an important, but not exclusive cause, of so-called primary autism includes a three to eight percent risk of recurrence in families with one affected child" (Rapin, Isabelle - 100).

Autism isn't just one disease but a category of complicated syndromes. Three of the most definable syndromes are Rett's, Asperger's, and Landua-Kleffner.

Rett's syndrome is only found in females and most are retarded. This syndrome develops between the ages of six months to eighteen months. Rett's begins with a normal state of development, then the victim regresses in skills such as speech, hand movements, and social skills, along with other signs of central nervous system dysfunction. Females with Rett's are most prone to having seizures.

Asperger's syndrome is affective in both males and females. After the first few years of life, victims will lose everything they have learned, but will eventually progress again. People with Asperger's appear to have more verbal and recognition skills. They also usually show strong interest in subway, bus, and train schedules and maps.

Asperger's syndrome is probably the closest to "primary autism".

Landua-Kleffner syndrome is also found in males and females. Victims with this

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disorder appear normal until between the ages of three to seven, which is when regression is noticeable. They lose the ability to talk and show great social withdrawal. Individuals with Landua-Kleffner also have abnormal brain waves patterns.

People with autism have daily routines that have to be followed or the person might go into a tantrum that could last for hours. This may lead to destructive behavior and head banging. Autistic people also love rhythmic and repetitive actions such as rocking, staring in to space, and playing with a single toy for hours. They pay little attention to people, and "by the age of adulthood, about one third of individuals with autism have had atleast one epileptic seizure" (Wing, Lorna - 1763). Because of this and other facts, many people assume autistic people are retarded. Yet, in fact they may be very intelligent. Some can memorize long lists of names after hearing them once or twice. Independence for an autistic individual depends upon their level of intelligence and social abilities. In fact "approximately two thirds of adults with autism remain handicapped and need constant supervision and support" ("Autism" - 2). People with autism usually never marry but people with a mild case could possibly marry and have children.

Normal children will pretend, play with toys the way that they were intended; but autistic children are almost the opposite. A child with autism never pretend

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