• Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are an example of atypical development
  • variety of conditions and treatments which this essay will discuss in detail
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1) What is ASD?

  • on a spectrum - different varieties, varying in severity
  • Kanner (1943) - Classic Autism
    • children have little or no language
    • don't socialise, interact and play like other children their age
    • stereotyped behaviours
    • global learning difficulties
    • distinct from other ASD - display signs before age 3
  • Another ASD condition is Aspergers
    • named after Hans Asperger who first described it in 1944
    • characterised by
      • social isolation and eccentric behaviour in childhood
      • impairments in 2-way social interaction and non-verbal communication
      • although grammatical, speech is peculiar - abnormalities in inflection and repetitive pattern
      • clumsiness is prominent as are obdsessional behaviours which Jordan (2002) says is more common in boys than girls
    • different to high-ability autism as onset is usually later and the outlook generally more positive
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2) Diagnosis

  • concerned parent takes child to GP who then refers to a specialist
  • specialist could be a psychologist, psychiatrist, paediatrician or speech and language therapist
  • generally these specialists then carry out an assessment
    • check for physical disorders
    • fins out info from family and school about child's development
    • a focussed observation may take placein which individual performs tasks whilst specialist observes them
    • based on these findings the specialist may then diagnose an ASD condition
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3) Incidence and Therapies

  • according to NHS, 1 in 100 people suffer from an ASD
  • incidence is increasing
    • Morton et al (2005) suggest this is because
      • improved case finding
      • increasing public awareness
      • broader diagnosis criteria
  • treatment depends on the individual
  • classic autism requires the teaching of life skills and affective communication system as early as possible
  • other treatments include
    • speech and language therapy
    • Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA)
      • involves breaking down skills into small, discrete tasks which are taught in a structured and hierachal way
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4) Explanations

  • no one theory of autism
  • lots of suggestions, some of which have been discredited
    • old theories include a variation of schizophrenia and inadequate parenting
    • more recent suggestion was that some vaccines - especially MMR - caused ASD
      • discounted due to lack of evidence
  • however evidence from twin studies suggest it could be genetic
    • genes have not yet been identified
  • another possibility is opioid excess theory
    • desmorphine only found in autistic children and on the backs of the poison dart frog
  • Whilst there is no answer yet, large amount of funding and research goes into ASD due to the large percentage of people it effects
    • explanation could be found in the near future
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