Specific Behaviors Seen in Infants Can Predict Autism, New Research Shows
- Canadian researchers have become the first to pinpoint specific
behavioral signs in infants as young as 12 months that can predict, with
remarkable accuracy, whether a child will develop autism.
Brochure for Health Care
Professionals: "Your Next Patient Has Autism..."
(PDF; size=247k) - The Education Subcommittee of the North Shore-Long Island
Jewish Health System (NSLIJHS) Autism Steering Committee has recently completed
work on its first educational initiative. “Your Next Patient Has Autism...” is a
trifold brochure developed for the many health professionals – nurses,
physicians, technicians and others – who provide services for children on the
autism spectrum. It is especially designed for those who only occasionally treat
this population. Physical assessment, diagnostic imaging, and a variety of other
interventions – both invasive and non-invasive – may induce fear and anxiety in
people with autism. Their behavioral responses to such experiences often
interfere with needed care and increase the risk of physical and/or
psychological trauma. “Your Next Patient Has Autism...” provides caregivers with
a brief synopsis of autism together with specific recommendations for managing
the special needs of these patients in the context of in-patient or out-patient
healthcare. Thanks to Beth Kimmel of
ASA-Oakland for suggesting this resource.
In Autism, New
Goal is Finding it Soon Enough to Fight it - For years, autism
was rarely noticed before the age of 2, its symptoms overlooked by
busy parents or so subtle that pediatricians missed them. But in the
last two years much has changed. Propelled by an explosion of public
awareness and growing evidence that early treatment with behavioral
therapy can improve a child's chances, scientists have set out to
diagnose the disorder as early as possible, and slowly, more children
with autism are being identified before they turn 2.
New Tool Helps Primary Care Physicians Diagnose Autism Early -
A primary care physician caring for approximately 1,000 children in a
general practice should expect that approximately three to seven of
his/her patients will demonstrate signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
ASD appears to be more common than once thought. The reason for this
is not yet clear but probably relates to a number of factors,
including broader criteria, increasing professional and public
awareness of the symptom spectrum, better ascertainment and perhaps a
true rise in prevalence.
Early childhood autism is a pervasive
disorder affecting children from birth (although it usually takes a
few months for symptoms to be sufficiently evident for diagnosis). The
disorder is well named, in that autism refers to behavior that is
unresponsive to the world around the child. The impairment can vary
but is usually regarded as severe.
Major symptoms include:
Communication deficiencies - these children are especially slow
to develop language skills, and often seem to have an aversion to
using language; sound may be attractive (e.g., echolalia, breaking
glass), but not for the purpose of communicating with others.
Preference for sameness - novelty is often reacted to as
distasteful, perhaps with temper tantrums; the children makes it clear
that a particular environment and regimen is required.
Self-stimulation, repetition - highly repetitive,
self-stimulatory behaviors, such as watching one's fingers or plate
spinning, are common.
Preference for things over people - there seems to be an
aversion to other people, especially in the form of physical contact
and prolonged social interaction; in contrast, they often enjoy
objects, at times in a way that denies the original purpose.
Various causes have been proposed. One that was popular for some years
was the hypothesis that parents were "emotional refrigerators,"
thereby creating emotionally unresponsive infants. In fact, studies do
confirm that parents are less involved with these children, but it is
clear now that this is a reaction to unresponsive infants rather than
something the parents brought to their child-raising. Rather, most
evidence now points to severe brain pathology as a result of defective
genes. Although the disorder is rare, studies of the few cases with
twins, as well as instances of multiple cases in a single family,
reveal that this may be among the most genetically determined of
Various treatments have been tried, often with substantial success.
The most successful programs are extremely intensive, relying heavily
on completely controlling the child's reinforcement, so that prosocial
and communication behaviors can be taught. Long-term studies suggest
problems, sometimes severe, can continue into adulthood, although many
cases can develop into functioning adults.
To learn more about
Autism in detail, visit our section on Autism.
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