Autism is a mysterious disorder. My first experience with autism was as a volunteer in a small preschool for autistic children. The progress with getting them to speak was very slow. I have since met teens with autism who were able to speak and interact and take care of themselves but still needed supervision and care.
Autism was fist recognized in 1908 and has become more prevalent in recent years. At one time it was thought to be caused by the measles, mumps and rubella vaccines but this was found to be not true. Autism spectrum disorder begins in early childhood and eventually causes problems functioning in society. A small number of children appear to develop normally and then go through a period of regression between 18 and 24 months.
Children with autism spectrum disorder have problems with communication and often have poor eye contact and lack facial expression. They don’t seem to understand emotions or others feelings. They seem to need a routine that could involve rocking, spinning or hand flapping and can be fascinated by things that have no meaning for them.
There does not seem to be any observable cause. Both genetics and environment may play a role. Researchers are exploring whether factors such as viral infections, medications, complications during pregnancy or air pollutants could play a role in triggering autism spectrum disorder.
The number of children diagnosed with autism is rising. It’s not clear whether this is due to better detection or a real increase in the number of cases or both. Early diagnosis and intervention can improve behavior skills and language development. Autism is no longer considered to be a rare condition. Scientists are continuing research but at this point there is no one cause to point to.
My heart goes out to the parents of these children and I hope that scientists can soon find the cause and cure for autism.