Autism spectrum disorder

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Autism spectrum disorder


Autism is an overall term which is used to describe a group of complicated brain developmental disorder which is also called pervasive developmental disorder. There are other pervasive developmental disorders which include pervasive developmental disorder which is not yet specified, Aspernger’s syndrome, Rett syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder. This group of disorders is collectively referred to as Autism spectrum disorders (Morgan, Jones & Jordan, 2001).



The prevalence rate of the disorder is estimated to be about 0.7% among children making it more prevalent than child cancer, juvenile diabetes, and pediatric AIDS. It is reported that around 1.5 millions of persons living in the United States and other numerous millions of people around the world are suffering from autism. The United States government figures show that the prevalence of autism among its population has been rising every year. The reason for the increase has not been found, but improved diagnosis and environmental influence are considered to be the cause for the increased awareness. Male children have been reported to be more prone to the disorder as compared to the female children and are diagnosed with the condition quite frequently. In the United States it is estimated that around 1% of the boys are diagnosed with the disorder (Ehlers & Gillberg, 1993)


Every individual who is diagnosed with autism has unique signs which cannot be compared to that observed in another individual. This is so because autism is a combination of disorders, one person’s condition can be very severe with the other person having a slight one. The commonly observed signs in individuals with autism include seizure disorders, gastrointestinal problems, mental retardation and illness. Explanations for the existence of these problems in individuals having autism are not known. It is possible to state that these additional conditions observed is evidence of various forms of autism with each being caused by different factors (Haley, 2006).

Although the conditions listed above are quite commonly observed in individuals having autism as compared to those people who do not have autism, they are not observed in everybody suffering from autism. The other symptoms observed include social and communication symptoms, sensory and motor symptoms, and personality differences (Rudy, 2009).Autistic spectrum disorders have a common social interactions, communication, and imagination which are linked to stiff, continual prototype of manners. It usually begins at birth or at the fist three years of life, but can also start later on during the child’s life. The triad of symptoms can be noticed at all levels of intelligence and can be observed alone or accompanied with some other physical or even psychological disorder (Editorials. 2009)


The main cause of autism is not yet established with the researchers citing the main cause being idiopathic. Since the disorder has varying severity and the clinical signs associated with it, it is suggested that the condition has various causes (Novella, 2008). Researchers suspect a cocktail of factors which might be considered to cause autism and they include multiple genetic components which might cause autism alone or when combined with other environmental factors which are not yet determined (Wing & Gould, 1979) The time at which the child might have got exposed to these factors is also significant, for example, before birth, during birth or even after the child is already born.

Very few cases of autism can be associated with genetic disorders like Fragile X, Tuberous Sclerosis, and Angelman’s syndrome. Exposure to environmental factors which are infectious like maternal rubella or cytomegalovirus, or chemicals like thalidomide or valporate at the time of pregnancy (Ehlers & Gillberg, 1993)

There is an increasing interest among researchers on the function of immune system in the control of autism. There have been suggestions that autism may involve inflammation in the central nervous tissues (Wing & Potter, 2008). Animal studies have also produced evidence on how the immune system of the body can influence symptoms which are linked to autism. There have been organized autism talks which aim at increasing the level of awareness and also investigations of useful immunological facts to researchers who are not in that field and those within the field of autism at the community level (Haley, 2006).

Previously, autism was believed to be caused by bad parenting as was proposed by Dr. Leo Kanner in 1943. Because the definitive causes of autism is not yet established, it has become clear that bad parenting is not one of the possible causes of the disorder. Dr. Bernard Rimland who founded the Autism Society of America and the Autism Research Institute enabled the medical community to appreciate that autism does not come about as a result of cold parents but from biological origin (Mauro, 2009)

Reasons for the recent awareness

According to the professionals in the field of child development in Britain, there has been increase in the number of children diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders. Dr. Kanner was the first person to characterize autism when he described it as a condition in a certain group of children with a strange pattern of behavior noticed after birth or before attaining the age of 30 months. He later referred to the condition as early infantile autism (Editorials. 2009)

Many clinicians have a feeling that there has been an increase in the number cases of autism as compared to the past. Some current studies have showed high prevalence rates for autism. According to California health and human services agency report between the years 1987 to 1998, a period in which the research was done, there was rise in the number of individuals diagnosed with the disorder (Morgan, Jones & Jordan 2001). Conclusion can therefore be made that the increase in the number of individuals reported with autistic spectrum disorders can be attributed to changes in referral patterns and in the methods of diagnosis, and the much knowledge of the different manifestations of the autistic conduct (Ownby, 2008).There might also be changes in the prevalence rates either locally and internationally with the cause not being known. Failure to carry out properly resourced prevalence studies, the condition of the disorder is likely to remain bleak (Mauro, 2009)


The evidence for the increase in the autistic spectrum is not yet clear because various researches has showed conflicting figures relating to the prevalence of the disorder. The condition still requires a lot of research work to shed light in its causes, prevalence rates and its management.



Editorials (2009). Autistic spectrum disorders. Retrieved on 15th December, 2009 from:

Ehlers, S. & Gillberg, C. (1993). “The epidemiology of Asperger syndrome: a total population

Study,”Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 34 (8), pp. 1327-1350.

Haley, B. (2006). Vaccines and the changing epidemiology of autism. Child Care Health Dev.

Retrieved on 15th December, 2009 from:

Mauro, T. (2009). Autism Spectrum Disorders. Retrieved on 15th December, 2009 from:

Morgan, H., Jones, H. & Jordan R. (2001). A Guide to Services for Adults with Autistic

Spectrum Disorders for Commissioners and Providers. Retrieved on 15th December, 2009 from:`

Novella, S. (2008). The Increase in Autism Diagnoses: Two Hypotheses. Retrieved on 15th

December, 2009 from:

Rudy, L. J. (2009). A Definition of Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Retrieved on 15th

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Ownby, M. H. (2008). Raising Autism Awareness. Retrieved on 15th December, 2009 from:

Wing, L. & Potter, D. (2008). Notes on the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders. Retrieved

on 15th December, 2009 from:

Wing, L. & Gould, J. (1979). “Severe impairments of social interaction: and associated

abnormalities in children: epidemiology and classification” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 9 (1), pp. 11-29.

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