It is imperative to note that many pediatricians and other physicians are not experienced in diagnosing autism or any of the related autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Sadly, they are trained to believe that the autistic form of ASD is incurable. ASD varies widely in severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children when it is masked by more debilitating handicaps. Subsequently, the data concerning autism is misleading because many cases are presumably left undiagnosed. However, the diagnostic criteria for autism agreed upon by most authorities is more consistent. The accepted signs and symptoms are as follows: severe abnormality of reciprocal social relatedness, severe abnormality of communication development (including language), restricted, repetitive behavior and patterns of behavior, interests, activities and imagination, and early onset (before the age of three to five). Many authors would also consider abnormal responses to sensory stimuli as additional criteria.
A fourteen year old Australian with autism spectrum disorder has topped the Commonwealth Bank Australian Maths Challenge.
To help better understanding differential diagnoses, see below for some milestones that, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are indicators of ASD that require evaluation by an expert:
Early indicators include:
- No babbling or pointing by age one
- No single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age two
- No response to name
- Loss of language or social skills
- Poor eye contact
- Excessive lining up of toys or objects. No smiling or social responsiveness.
Later indicators include:
- Impaired ability to make friends with peers
- Impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
- Absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
- Stereotyped, repetitive, or unusual use of language
- Restricted patterns of interest that are abnormal in intensity or focus
- Preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
• Inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals
Additional indicators may include: If a child has chronic diarrhea, frequently wakes up at night, self-selects a very restricted diet (generally limited to a few usually non-nutritious foods such as french fries, apple juice, colas, and corn chips). If your child has suffered ear or other infections, isn't trying to say words by around 18 months, has a history of bad reactions to vaccinations, doesn't seem interested in other kids, and doesn't show the kind of curiosity and relatedness that most other kids do.
It is vital to note that even though many children with ASD have a history of recurrent ear infections in their first year of life, this early pattern may be followed by a period of seemingly strong immunity. Paradoxically, this may be due to a hyper-immune status in response to low-grade chronic infection. Many affected children appear to be "healthy" with seemingly limited related symptomology, though, chronic diarrhea is very common and a sure tip-off that their biochemistry is abnormal.
Urgent action is recommended if a child has had a period of normal development and then later regresses. Contact your natural health provider as soon as possible if you suspect your child may have ASD.
Sources for this article include:
McCandless, J. Children with starving brains: a medical treatment guide for autism spectrum disorder 2nd ed. Bramble Books, Putney. 2003.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Autism Fact Sheet [Internet]. NIH U.S. Department of Health & Human Services c2011; [cited 2012 February]. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) [Internet]. Atlanta; c 2010 [last updated 2011]; [cited 2012 February]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html.
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