The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM IV) has listed the following list of six items:
- Qualitative impairment over social interaction which is manifested on the victims by at least 2 of the following (Doyle & Lland, 2004):
- Marked impairment on the utilization of multiple nonverbal conducts like eye to eye gaze, the body posture, the facial expression and gestures during social interaction.
- Failure to develop relationship with peers which are appropriate to the level of development.
- Lack of natural seeking to share interests, enjoyment or successes with other people for example by a failure to show, bring or point out objects of interest to the other people.
- Having no emotional reciprocity. The person lacks to show reciprocity and is not participative in some simple social games or/and plays. Such people mostly prefer to be alone doing solitary activities and if they involve other people in the activities, they are just like machines or tools of work.
- Qualitative Communication impairment which is manifested by at least one of the following characteristics (Doyle & Lland, 2004):
- Delay in the total or partial development of spoken language which is not accompanied by an attempt to compensate it with the use of other non spoken communication such as gestures or miming.
- For those who have adequate speech, they are not able to initiate or sustain any conversation with their colleagues, friends or any other person.
- Repetitive or stereotypic use of language or the use of idiosyncratic language.
- Having no varied or natural make-believe play or a play that is social imitative to developmental levels.
- Stereotyped behavioral type and restrictive repetitive patterns of conduct, activities and interests which is manifested by at least 2 of the following (Doyle & Lland, 2004):
- Stereotyped and cyclical motor mannerism such as hand flapping, figure flapping, complex whole-body movement and figure and hand twisting.
- Persistent preoccupation with some parts of objects such as toys.
- Some inflexible adherence to certain nonfunctional rituals or routine.
- Encompassing obsession with a given stereotypical and rigid interest patterns which are abnormal in terms of intensity or focus.
- Delays or/and abnormal functioning in at the minimum one of the following areas, starting from age three (Doyle & Lland, 2004):
- Symbolic or imaginative play.
- Language as employed in social interaction.
- Social interaction.
If an individual has a total of at least 6 of the characteristics which includes at minimum 2 features from section A, at minimum one feature from section B and at minimum on feature from section C, she/he is diagnosed as having Autistic Disorder. Autism is considered when a child who was growing normally starts to lose the normal functioning and capabilities or even starts to regress (Doyle & Lland, 2004).
Description of Autism disorder in Own Words:
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Autistic disorder is also known as autism with the most recent name as “mind-blindedness” is a developmental and neurological disorder which occurs during the 1st three years of a child’s life. A child who has this disorder appears to be existing in her/his own world and having very little to do with other people. Such a child shows lack of interest to other people including peers and the general environment. Such a child focuses his/her interest on a certain kind of obsessive behavior. He/she develops a routine and repeats the conduct daily and repetitively. Such a child is characterized by impaired communication. The victims of autism avoid eyes contact, and manifest very little attachment to other people (Argyle, 2008).
Autism prevents the victim from forming relationship with other people. The reason for this is because of their inability to interpret some nonverbal communication such as facial expressions. Such a child is likely to resist cuddling and insist on playing alone. They are resistant to change; most of the time the victims of autism are rigid and very inflexible. Autism victims may excel in some specific mental tasks (Reder, 1997).
There are several researches that have been conducted in the endeavor to identify what causes autism.’ Nevertheless, there is very that is known as to its cause (Tobias & Noorzai, 2010). There are several studies that have posited that autism is a genetic condition. Though there is no scientific prove, it’s argued that there are genes that are involved and their combination leads to autism. Even though scientific researches have found variety of abnormalities on the victims brains, the information can not be adopted as a scientific proven source of autism since there have been inconsistency in this findings. Nevertheless, it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that parental behaviors have no take in the development of autism.
According to the findings of Center for disease control (CDC), autism is more common among boys than girls. The statistics were for every five autism victims, four are boys. Again there is no scientific explanation for this (CDC, 2010).
It’s very hard to diagnose autism to a child who is less than three years. By the age of three, some of the common traits of autism can be detected on a child. By then, a lot of development has taken place and it requires more effort to change the trend though not impossible. At this juncture, one can use motor language skills to test how developed the disorder is. By the age of 14 months, the motor skills can be used to identify whether a child is suffering from autistic disorder. Early intervention at such an age can manage to provide a healing process before the disorder develops fully (DeNoon, 2008).
At early years of joining school (5-7), autism children are seen to lead a solitude life. They do not love to associate with their colleagues and they spend time playing alone. When others attempt to join them, they become hostile to them. At this age, their status does not concern them. When they get at the age of teens (13-18), autism victims find it very hard to mix with others. This is the age where youth are very proactive. At this age, they realize how different they are from their peers. Most of the times they have relationship challenges as they can effectively or timely keep up with the communication trends of their peers. Some are motivated to learn more social skills so as to fit in the society while others decide to adopt a total solitude lifestyle. They engage in other activities such as reading hence excelling than the rest (Evan 2010).
At adulthood, we have two types of victims; high performing and low performing. The high functioning autism adults are able to take roles and even pursue careers and lead normal lives. They get married and continue with life. Low performing autism adults may require attention and special care even in adulthood. The development to ability to care for themselves and a family depends on how the problem was addressed at early age (Evan, 2010).
If we interpret autism according to Piagetian terms with a particular concern on the effect of autism on cognitive development, it’s evident that Piaget’s theory to mental retardation explains the marred development of the victim. Piaget furthered the discussion by the use of two factor theory to explain how autism affects development. Two factor theories of operative functions versus figurative function explain the two types of autism individual. Most autistic individuals manifest an arrest within operative functions at the level of sensorimotor while at the same time continuing to progress in their figurative functions. Piaget observed that early arrest interferes with the development of higher-level symbolic, social and conceptual skills (Morgan, 2005).
The treatment of autism is quite difficult especially when not addressed at early age. The parents, teachers and therapists have to work extra hard to encourage speech development and social adjustment. The use of positive reinforcement techniques have been found to bear fruits for many victims’ healing process. Sometimes it may be necessary to enroll the victims into specialized institutions for therapy. Some of the most commonly used and successful approaches include: music therapy, vitamin therapies, sensory integration, auditory training, colored or prism lenses, speech therapy and social skills programming (PsychNet, 2009).
The following therapies can successfully be employed in the treatment of autism depending on the stage and complexity of the disorder: Adlerian, art therapy, behaviorism, cognitive behaviorism therapy, dance therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, play therapy, narrative therapy, personal construct therapy, brief solution-focused therapy, contemporary psychoanalysis, primal therapy, rational emotive therapy, social learning, EMDR, trait theory, Freudian psychotherapy, therapeutic touch psychotherapy, existential psychotherapy and gestalt therapy (PsychNet, 2009).