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Published: Friday 25th of January 2013

Autism Essay Example

In today’s society, autism has moved from being an unknown to becoming one of the leading areas of scientific research in children. More and more people are being diagnosed with autism and this is demanding a greater amount of research and education into autism. This essay aims to evaluate the possible causes, treatment methods, identification, the learning experience, social reaction and changes for autism in our ever expanding world. What makes someone autistic and how does autism manifest within the person? Are there any specific attributes to this disorder and who becomes autistic? Perhaps there have been many causes identified and if so, is there a cure for this particularly harrowing problem? Are autistic people likely to do well in society or two people who have autism require a great deal of special education and social care throughout their lives? There are numerous questions that society poses about autism and this essay will seek to examine some of those, looking for the answers.

Defining Autism

Ever since its discovery in 1943 by Leo Kanner,autism was at first deems to be a mental illness. Originally children were observed as not having the same kind of learning behaviors and patterns as regular children, often being emotionally disfigured and taking a long time to learn. In a similar way, Hans Asperger coined the term Asperger’s syndrome for autistic people that could talk. Both Leo and Hans worked independently to document autism as a developmental disorder which manifests in communication, interaction behavior and social functioning. Autistic people suffer from Autistic Spectrum Disorder which is a developmental disorder causing neurological disability, impairing a child’s ability to learn, interact and communicate, usually before they reach the age of three. As autism manifests within a child, this lifelong disability grows to effect social interaction, impairing communication and creating sensory processing that is greatly different to regular minds. Autism creates changes in verbal development, anger when touched, and 11 inability to demote and not being able to find things humorous. Autism spectrum disorder has some very distinctive features and it is categorized with five key features: Asperger’s, autism disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and Rett’s disorder.


In order to differentiate between mental retardation and autism, professionals will seek to examine children using questionnaire-based protocols and by closely observing their behaviors. Often teachers, parents and family members can cooperate together with this process. The childhood autism rating scale developed by Shopler in 1980 - it is a scale that was developed in order to test how autistic the child was. Studies carried out by the University of Texas rated the accuracy of this scale as 98% accurate to diagnose autistic children as well as autistic adolescent children. Thanks to this scale this has worked wonders for autism diagnosis, trained professionals much more easily being able to diagnose autism and identify to what degree a person is autistic. The autism tests developed by Shopler focuses on 15 different characteristics, behaviors and abilities of a person, taking into account how the child develops. Various categories such as object use, emotional response, body use, adaptation to environments, relation with people, visual responses, imitation, smell, taste, touch, listening abilities, nervous tendencies, verbal and non-verbal communication, intellectualism, activity, general impressions have been used to diagnose autistic people. Unfortunately, recent research has shown that autism rates have almost reached a tenfold increase over the last decade, though this is speculative. A particular scientific publication, pediatrics, showed that over 1% of children within the United States of America between the age of three and 17 have some form of autism. Compared with earlier statistics, this amount has greatly increased which shows that autism is on the rise unfortunately. Males are also far more likely to be autistic sufferers, often four times more likely than females. In terms of linking autism to various socio-economic variables such as religion or race, there have been no discernible connections as of yet.


For many years, scientists and professional all over the globe have been collaborating together in order to determine what causes of autism are, however these causes have been rather difficult to determine with great certainty. One of the pressures on academics has been to determine the causes in order to prioritize Relief efforts. Because of those different autism levels and many different symptoms that can result, it is quite difficult to determine causes. Much of the evidence causes is related to either genetic or environmental influences. Along the journey of determining causes, many claims have been disproven. A psychologist known as Mr. Bettelheim once thought that the cause of autism was the mother of the child, citing reason for autism being that the mother would not bond probably with a child. This is clearly untrue and there was no real evidence for this claim. Other research by Dr Bernard Rimland, who had autistic child himself, was of great use in helping to find out how autism was biological defect and not a causal effect like Mr Bettelheim perceived stop Mr Rimland published several books aiming to disprove causal effect theories however he did make a highly controversial claim that vaccines given to children caused autism. This was a claim that was refuted pretty quickly and actually lacked evidence. Mr Rimland’s claim was actually taken to court and the US federal court (otherwise known as “the vaccine court”) established that the vaccines purporting to create autism did not actually do so. In 2009, the court rejected the theory that a measles vaccine could cause autism and this was published in a medical journal. It was deemed that non-these claims had any scientific backing and it was argued that vaccines did not cause autism. In 2009 study conducted by researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it was suggested that autism was caused by genes that created problems along certain strands of DNA. This study suggested that defective autism creating genes negatively impacted on brain circuitry development in childhood stages, therefore creating autism. In other research, Dr. Don Bailey has speculated that the syndrome FXS, a genetic disorder that creates intellectual and behavioral disabilities, was linked to autism. Mr Bailey wrote that young males who had FXS were 25% likely to have autism. Many similarities were drawn at XS sufferers and children with autism, such as a low IQ, challenging behaviors, intellectual and learning difficulties and various other characteristics.


Treating autism has always been a challenging task and there is no cure for this problem. In 1943, Sigmund Freud said that autism would be exacerbated if parents did not communicate consistently and effectively with their children, where as a close relationship allowed the autistic child to move forward and grow as a person. This period was highly controversial and at the time it was thought that often the parents didn’t want to interact with the child because of their autism. Moreover, it seemed that autism was genetically inherited in a lot of cases. When trying to determine if Sigmund Freud’s treatment method would work, children were often removed from their homes in order to see if they would recover or not, yet this sort of experiment did not offer any evidence that Sigmund Freud’s treatment method was credible. However, research has shown that greater communication with an autistic child can result in that child learning to communicate better, making them manage with society better. An autistic child if communicated with effectively could learn to control their emotions and manage their behaviors in order to better function in society. Communication would also help autistic children desensitize from any sensitivity they may have such as sensitivities to sounds. In this day and age, the most common methods of treatment are occupational therapy, physical therapy, applied behavior analysis, medications, sensory integration therapies, pivotal response training And other kinds of therapies. On top of this, there is also a great deal of dietary adaptation, making sure that children receive the best vitamins and nutrients that they can. Certain methods of teaching have also been applied as treatment methods, for instance teaching music and art which can help autistic people relax. Of these treatment methods, the most used is applied behavioral therapy, when coupled with occupational therapy and physical therapy. This is not a foolproof treatment method and autistic symptoms will certainly still persist, however this is most used in society. There are negative implications of using these therapies, for instance no punishment for wrongdoing and incorrect behaviors, as well as the methods being extremely time-consuming. All in all however, applied behavior therapy has shown a great deal of positive results in reducing autism and managing autism.
Recently there have been emerging schools of thought about how diet is responsible for autism. Much evidence has been gathered to suggest that adapting diets can cure some symptoms of autism, for instance Karl Reichelt has suggested that getting rid of gliadin, casein and gluten from diets has a positive effect. Many research laboratories are now funding research on determining how diet can cure or manage autism. The administration of vitamin B6 has been shown to greatly improve autism sufferers. This vitamin is extremely safe to use and it is naturally produced by the brain, therefore it is a safe choice and safe method of treatment. B6 helps on the premise that this vitamin helps the brain to create a decent amount of serotonin that can help with behaviors.

Teaching Methods and Practices

People with autism usually encounter harsh learning difficulties, yet they can find certain things extremely easy to do, for instance riding a unicycle may be no effort to an autistic child whereas doing a math problem will be extremely challenging for them. With each teaching method comes an individual focus because every autistic sufferer is different. Usually when trying to teach autistic children, environments have to be considered, with schedules and routines needing to be carefully planned and controlled. Children need to be presented with visual learning methods and visual structures in order for them to understand exactly what is expected of them.. No teaching method is completely foolproof and some autistic children will react better than others. Some autistic children may express violent tendencies towards their teachers, posing a real challenge when finding and training teachers to work with autistic children. As with other parts of teaching methods, there are some similarities between basic teaching principles in school and autistic teaching principles. In terms of teaching strategy, one of the best ways to teach autistic children is to provide key structure to lessen, paying attention to the way that children sense the environment, the way they interact socially as the way that they immerse themselves in school systems. The best teaching methodologies have been refined through scientific applications of data in teaching research. Collecting data and samples of autistic lessons has been used to dramatically improve and refine teaching methods over time, enhancing both the effectiveness and use of classes for autistic people. Sometimes, although not often, autistic children can be taught to manage their behaviors so that they are able to function within a normal school setting, just like any other student in a normal school classroom. With every autistic class approach, things need to be carefully considered and teaching needs to be discussed with the parents. In the 1970s, North Carolina University created a philosophy to base autistic teaching on,, entitled TEACCH. This philosophy was that learning environments needs to be adapted in order to meet student’s needs, unlike students needing to be changed to adapt to an environment. The techniques employed in North Carolina University’s research aim to meet the needs of communication, the coping skills of the student and the social interaction they have. The TEACCH philosophies goal is to get autistic students equipped with the functional skills in order to live a productive life and also to be able to fulfil their potential both at home and at school, making a positive impact on their community. TEACCH puts a great deal of stress on needing to incorporate both behavioral and cognitive science, using it within social skills teaching. Lessons must be well structured and visual cues should be used in order to make learning more engaging for autistic children, often task being carried out in working environments that are not so stern and serious in their physical appearance. One of the components within TEACCH, Structure-Positive-Empathetic-Low Arousal-Links (aka SPELL), outlines the need for clear routines, atmospheres that serve to reduce anxiety and maximize positivity, fostering good relationships both between autistic children and their students, plus autistic children and their teachers. In order to do this, the working environments can be made to look less threatening and the lessons can be designed in the same way, helping to appeal to the minds of children. With the SPELL Methods in mind, a clear sense of structure and routine will be applied to every lesson, making use of unambiguous language, for instance no ironic ponds or humorous undertones. It will be key for the teachers to make it clear to their students about which behaviors are acceptable and which are completely out of bounds, addressing children individually in order to form good relationships. Lessons should be carried out with an understanding of what abnormal behaviors may arise from the students at any time, providing warnings to the students if teachers need to change their activities. Lessons will use a lot of visual materials such as teaching using videos, photos and other first-hand materials, encouraging autistic children to express and communicate how they feel about these visual cues, learning to recognize what they are. A lot of concept questions will be posed to the children in order to create opportunities for simple conversation and getting the autistic children thinking. Teaching autistic children is a very challenging and demanding task, often exacerbated by the fact that children have some disability and tendencies to outburst with inappropriate behaviors. This means that it must take a lot of training to train autistic children’s teacher. Teachers of autistic children will be required to have a high degree of patience, the true virtue in this field.. Teachers will also have to be highly empathetic, encouraging, and compassionate and understanding of their student’s needs. It is often teachers will become frustrated with their students and even more so if their students are autistic. It can be a very demanding job. One of the most important things about teaching autistic children is to develop the strategy that facilitates structured teaching whilst also understanding the unique characteristics of every autistic child in the class. Teachers must be able to organize the children’s environment so that children are able to focus on best on relevant information and not become distracted by any irrelevant information that may impede their learning. Learning strategies have to be coordinated in order to engage students as best as possible, not creating any anxieties or frustrations. Instructors must be able to understand what is expected of them and must be willing to encounter certain disruptive behaviors and things that would take them out of their comfort zones. There are many challenges to teach autistic children – the future is bright but the future is a slow and arduous learning curve. Besides trying to educate, often treatment costs are very expensive. Some studies have estimated that the average lifetime cost for treating an autistic person can exceed over $4 million, most of that cost taking into account economic productivity that has been lost. Many societies around the world have often inappropriate or inadequate family or financial problems, so it is difficult people to pay for autistic treatment. State funded autistic treatment is also not funded as much as it should be. It seems as though society often neglects the treatment of autistic people because there is no known cure all for autism. In the United States for example, private health insurance claims in order to cover autism treatment are often not allowed. It can be very difficult for families to pay the costs of treatment, especially after childhood – treatment issues post childhood often incur significant costs for job training, housing, social care, therapy and other planning. Even though there is no outright cure for autism, on occasion, children can recover and lose their autism. This has largely occurred after intense treatment has been carried out, however the numbers of recovery are usually around 3 to 25%, so this is not so large.

In conclusion

Autism has really hit the public eye ever since its original diagnosis. Opinions have changed greatly over the years as to the causes of autism. It is reassuring that sufferers of autism are being considered by a lot of celebrities, organizations and charities – all of these people are trying hard to prevent autism from ruining the lives of the sufferers and those around them. It is encouraging that research, education and diagnosis is being taken a whole lot more seriously ever since autism is diagnosis. There is a lot of attention and buzz around autism in social media and the new, people working to identify, treat and autism sufferers. Teaching autistic children remains a large challenge and it can be very difficult to teach a severely autistic person, however it can be hugely rewarding to do so. Common methods of teaching such as those proposed by TEACCH have been able to effectively teach autistic children in ways that are engaging and anxiety limiting. The most effective and least upsetting teaching methods are to be further and further developed – teachers need to help autistic students’ progress safely and in an individual manner, taking into account how they learn and what makes them tick. There is no outright cure to autism, however there have been many developments in the identification of the disorder as well as the implementation of new treatment. Fortunately in today’s society, a lot of autistic children and adults are able to live rich fulfilling lives, being productive in society and interacting with others, forming relationships. Society hopes that autistic children and adults will be able to live good lives throughout future.