The Evolution of Autism

What is Autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder that begins early in childhood; it is usually noticed in children by age 3. Defining characteristics of autism include communication deficits, poorly developed reciprocal social interactions, stereotyped behaviors, and restricted interests. These deficits occur at different levels of severity which has evolved into the contemporary view of autism as a spectrum disorder, and it is often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Autistic Disorder (AD), or Autism.

Traditionally, the autism range has included Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).

Autistic Disorder is sometimes called classic autism. It is characterized by:

  1. Significant language delays including reduced instances of language that has communicative and reciprocal intent.
  2. Minimal reciprocal social interactions. For example, avoidance of eye contact, lack of appropriate facial expressions, inability to appropriately communicate emotions, lack of understanding of shared emotions, and inability to use verbal and nonverbal behaviors for social interchange.
  3. Stereotyped behaviors and restricted interests. These may include unusual sensory interests toward objects, unusual or repetitive hand and finger movements, and excessive interest or reference to either unusual or highly specific topics or objects.

Asperger Syndrome, while somewhat milder than Autistic Disorder, has both similar and distinct characteristics including:

  1. Difficulty with the social aspects of speech and language such as limited range of intonation, one-sided conversations, literal interpretations, and inability to shift topics. Vocabulary development is usually advanced while understanding of figurative language is a weakness.
  2. Difficulty with social cognition a lack of social and/or emotional reciprocity, eye contact, and friendships. Social awkwardness such as not reacting appropriately to social interactions and not recognizing other’s feelings or reactions. Difficulties with social cognition may result in behavioral rigidity.
  3. Restricted and repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities. This may result in inflexibility in regard to routines. Preoccupation with a narrowed topic of interest which often dominates conversations and thoughts.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified is used to categorize those individuals who meet some, but not all, of the criteria for Autistic Disorder or Asperger Syndrome. PDD-NOS is usually marked by fewer and milder symptoms than Autistic Disorder or Asperger Syndrome. Pervasive deficits in the development of reciprocal social interaction, communication, or stereotyped and restricted behaviors are apparent.

History of Autism

Assuming that Autism is a neurological disorder and not caused by “bad” parenting or environmental toxins then it has, most likely, always existed among human beings; however, it was not scientifically described or empirically researched until the 20th century.

Early 1900s

In the early 1900s autism was thought to be a form of childhood schizophrenia, feeble-mindedness, or childhood psychosis.

The term autism was first used by the Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler between 1908 and 1912. He used it to describe schizophrenic patients who had withdrawn from social contact, appeared to be living in their own world, and were socially disconnected. The root of the word autism is derived from the Greek “autos” which means “self”. That root is combined with the Greek suffix “ismos,” meaning the act, state, or being of. Bleuler used the word “autism” to mean morbid self-admiration and withdrawal into self. It suggests a state of being absorbed by oneself, lost in oneself, removed from social interaction, and isolated from social interaction. While Bleuler described and documented characteristics of autism, his adult patients were diagnosed as having schizophrenia and children were diagnosed as having childhood schizophrenia.

1920s and 1930s

In 1926, Dr. Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva, a Russian psychiatrist described what would later become the core deficits of Asperger Syndrome in boys that she labeled as having schizoid personality disorder of childhood. In 1933, Dr. Howard Potter described children who would now be identified as autistic as having a childhood form of schizophrenia.

1930s and 1940s

The two main pioneers in autism research, Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner, began working separately in the 1930’s and 1940’s. In 1934 Hans Asperger of the Vienna University Hospital used the term autistic and in 1938 he adopted the term “autistic psychopaths” in discussions of child psychology. However, Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital began using the term autism to describe behaviors that are now recognized as Autism Disorder or classical autism. Leo Kanner is the one who is usually credited for using the term autism as it is known today.

Kanner’s 1943 descriptions of autism were the result of his observations of eleven children who showed a marked lack of interest in other people, difficulties in social interactions, difficulty in adapting to changes in routines, good memory, sensitivity to stimuli (especially sound), and a highly unusual interest in the inanimate environment. These socially withdrawn children were described by Kanner as; lacking affective contact with others; being fascinated with objects; having a desire for sameness; and being non-communicative in regard to language before 30 months of age. Kanner emphasized the role of biology in the cause of autism. He felt that the lack of social connectedness so early in life must result from a biological inability to form affective relationships with others. However, Kanner also felt that parents displayed a lack of warmth and attachment to their autistic children. In his 1949 paper, he attributed autism to a “genuine lack of maternal warmth.”

In 1944, working separately from Kanner, Hans Asperger described a “milder” form of autism, known today as Asperger Syndrome. Asperger also studied a group of children who possessed many of the same behaviors as described in Kanner’s descriptions of autism. However, the children he studied demonstrated precocious vocabulary and speech development but poor social communication skills. These children appeared to have a desire to be a part of the social world, but lacked the necessary skills. He also mentioned that many of the children were clumsy and different from normal children in terms of fine motor skills.

1950s

During the 1950s, Bruno Bettelheim, a University of Chicago professor and child development specialist, furthered Kanner’s 1949 view that autism resulted from a lack of maternal warmth. Bettleheim’s view of autism being caused by emotionally cold and distant mothers became known as the Refrigerator Mother Theory of autism. The idea behind the theory was that children became autistic because mothers didn’t interact, play, or them; in a sense, they were “frigid.” He published articles throughout the 1950s and 1960s to popularize this position. Proponents of this view were searching for a place to lay blame for autism.

It was also during this decade and into the next that parents were counseled to institutionalize their children in order for them to receive appropriate treatment.

1960s

Beginning in the 1960s there was increased awareness within the professional community that the refrigerator mother theory did not adequately account for autism. The theory ignored the fact that siblings of autistic children were not autistic despite having the same mother, and scientific advancements began to suggest more biological causes.

In 1964, Bernard Rimland, a psychologist with an autistic son, stressed the biological causes of autism in his book “Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior.” The publication of this book directly challenged the prevailing refrigerator mother theory of autism. In 1965, Rimland established the Autism Society of America, which was one of the first advocacy groups for parents of children with autism. He established the Autism Research Institute in 1967 to conduct research on treatment for autism.

In 1967 autism continued to be classified under schizophrenia in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. This promoted the view that autism was a mental illness rather than a developmental disability.

1970s

There was a push during this decade to better define autism and, with scientific advancement, there was better understanding of autism as having a neurobiological basis.

1980s

The publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) in 1980 finally set autism apart from schizophrenia as it was now categorized as a neurodevelopmental disorder. Autism research continued to increase during the 1980s along with recognition within the scientific community that autism resulted from neurological disturbances rather than pathological parenting.

It was during this decade that Asperger’s work was translated to English and published. The term, “Asperger’s Syndrome” was first used in 1981 by the British psychiatrist Lorna Wing. She also developed the Wing’s Triad of Impairments, which is Impairment in Imagination, Impairment in Social Communication, and Impairment in Social Relationships to describe autism.

1990s

In 1994 Asperger’s syndrome was officially added to the DSM-IV as a progressive developmental disorder. Two nonprofit groups, the National Alliance for Autism Research and Cure Autism Now, were founded to stimulate autism research and raise awareness about the disorder. Research starts to suggest that autism is a spectrum disorder. Near the end of the decade, as autism rates rose, it was speculated that autism was due to mercury in vaccines.

2000s

In 2000, vaccine makers removed thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, from all routinely given childhood vaccines. Public fears were that exposure to the preservative were related to autism. The National Institute of Health estimated that autism affected 1 in 250 children in 2001. The Institute of Medicine found no credible evidence of a link between thimerosal or any other vaccine and autism in 2004.

The prevalence of autism increased significantly during this decade as a result of better detection, broader diagnostic criteria, and increased public awareness. In 2007 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately 1 in 150 children were diagnosed with autism. Part of this increase is a result of better understanding of autism as a spectrum disorder.

2010s

A hundred years later, the term autism describes a neurodevelopmental condition that results in significant social cognitive and social communicative impairment. Current research is focused on identifying biologically distinct subtypes of autism. The belief is that once subtypes are understood advance can be made in regard to understanding cause and developing effective treatments. The ultimate goal of this line of research is to eventually find a cure and be able to prevent it.

Until that time, the prevalence of autism continues to increase. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately1 in 88 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

The upcoming publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in May 2013 will remove Asperger Syndrome and PDD-NOS as separate from autism. Instead, diagnosis will be autism spectrum disorder in an attempt to more accurately reflect the continuum and severity of the types of symptoms and behaviors displayed.

It will be interesting to see how these diagnostic changes and research into the biological subtypes of autism impact the future evolution of this neurodevelopmental disorder.



Source by David Pino

The Benefits of Vocational Training for the Disabled

Disabilities come in a wide range of conditions and disorders. One might be born physically disabled, while being perfectly mentally capable of working and functioning in the society. Some become disabled later in life, due to certain diseases or accidents. Others are born physically healthy, but with some mental or intellectual disabilities. No matter what one’s condition might be, the disabled are a part of the society, just like all of us, and it is our duty to accept them, and help them integrate, realizing their self-worth.

There has been a lot of talk on the topic of the disabled, but it often just remains an empty talk about political correctness, without or with little action taken. Instead of just talking, we need to start working on including them into society by providing them with decent education and better chances of employment later on in life. Vocational training for the disabled is an integral part in this process, and has to be approached carefully and taken seriously in order to implement it the right way.

Disabled children (and in this case it mostly refers to the children with mental and learning disabilities) are often pushed into inclusion programmes, i.e. they are stuck in classes with other children and have to learn and study at the same rate. Off course, this is not an entirely a bad thing. The idea behind this is quite legitimate – making both regular children and children with disabilities get acquainted with each other and explore each other’s worlds, while including special needs children into the regular stream of life.

However, this might not work for everyone, every time. First of all, the teachers in regular classes are not well versed in working with special needs kids, and are thus often, if not almost always, unable to approach them in a right way, and pass their knowledge on to them. I courses in teaching each semester at the university, and not one of them focuses on this topic! Furthermore, the tempo of teaching in regular classes is often not suitable for the disabled, making them even more confused and falling behind. These two factors can often lead to further marginalisation of the disabled, instead of providing them with the means for getting on in life. For this reason, we need vocational training for the disabled, with teachers who are well versed in teaching this way, and courses which are tailored for the disabled.

Another great bonus of having special vocational training for the disabled (or at least, special education classes in regular schools) is that these classes are usually smaller than regular ones, which usually have 20+ students and are mostly overcrowded. This means that the teacher can focus on every student more easily, thus individualising their approach for every student. This is especially important in a special education context, where each student needs much more attention, support and love from the teacher than in usual classes, and more attention means more progress and better learning.

Dealing with a disabled person, especially if it is a child might be difficult, and is always challenging, requiring a ton of patience and hard work. However, finding a suitable vocational training and education for them will help a lot, as it will help them fulfil their potential and use the maximum of their abilities.

Source by Akansha K Gupta

Reasons to Approach Overseas Education Consultants

Studying abroad is becoming an increasingly popular option for students who wish to broaden their outlook on life, and gain a meaningful education. With so many options available, students will find it hard to understand which college and which degree would be the best suited to their situation. This is where overseas education consultants play an important role.

Most students who wish to study abroad are confused about which country to go to, the institute to choose, what they are looking for in their career, the procedures to apply for their visa and what tests to take. Overseas education consultants keep themselves updated on the latest compliances and requirements, and are well versed in the procedures for college and visa applications. They will be able to guide you through each and every step with precision and clarity. You will get a comprehensive idea about courses available at each college, possible career pathways, eligibility requirements, cost implications and application deadlines.

Here are some of the reasons why you should get in touch with a good education consultant.

They will help you chose the perfect career

Many students may not be aware of the various new career opportunities available. A good education counsellor will help you narrow down your options based on your talents and interests, and will help you take the right decision regarding your career. They will advise you on what kind of job you can do after completing a particular course and the money you can potentially earn.

They are well networked with leading universities abroad

If you are wondering which countries offer good education in your field of interest, a consultant can help by suggesting the best university for a particular course that you may want to pursue. You will be given various alternatives, a lowdown on the course at each university, and will also be advised on the admission requirements.

They will help you get your visa approval

Applying for a visa can be time-intensive, complicated and very harrowing. Many students find it difficult to get together the documents and approvals required. Going through an education consultancy will be much easier, as they have good experience in documentation, know all the right channels and can get things done for you in half the time!

They will give you valuable financial advice

Studying abroad is an expensive proposition, and many students do not even try to achieve their education dreams because they are unaware about how to get their finances together. Your overseas education consultants can advise you about fees, costs of living abroad, and any hidden costs that you may need to bear. They will guide you on getting education loans and /or applying for financial aid. Quite often, students can work part time while they study to reduce the burden of tuition fees, and you will be able to get advice on this as well.

They will give you guidance on accommodation and travel

Overseas education consultants are well networked, and can help you in finding suitable accommodation that fits your budget and is close to your college campus. If you want to stay within campus hostels, most consultants are in touch with top universities abroad and can help with this.

Keeping all these aspects in mind, you will realise the importance of getting in touch with a reputed overseas education consultant before you get started on your education journey! Good luck!

Source by Usha Sunil