AUTISM - AUTISM Psychology and Education of the Exceptional...

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AUTISM Psychology and Education of the Exceptional Child 1
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New parents love to experience the first smile, first laugh, and first word but for some those days never come. Take for instance Briana and her daughter Lola. Lola didn't smile, she didn't laugh. When she and Lola took walks in the park, she noticed how the other babies loved to be held by their mothers while Lola hated being touched and even more being held. Lola never looked at me -- she looked through me. “She had no idea who Mommy was," Brianna said. "And other kids love it when someone comes up to them and smiles. She'd freak out if someone approached her -- even if it was me or my husband." (Cohen, 2007.) Lola, after seeking multiple doctor’s opinions, was diagnosed with autism. Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain. Autism impacts the development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Autistic patients typically show difficulties in verbal and non- verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. Some traits the autistic children exhibit are resistance to change, showing distress for no apparent reason, obsessive attachment to objects and uneven gross/motor skills. Autism is a spectrum disorder and even though these are common characteristics of the disorder, it affects each individual differently and at varying degrees (Autism Society of America, 1996.) Autism affects an estimated 1 in 150 births. Roughly this means as many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism. And this number is growing at a startling rate of 10-17 percent per year, which means 4 million people in the next 10 years could be impaired with autism. Autism is not known to affect any certain 2
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racial, ethnic or cultural background. The only thing known is that autism affects boys four times more than girls (Autism Society of America, 1996.) Many researchers have noticed the uprising in diagnoses of autism and know that the critical point in stopping this disorder from rising is early diagnosis. Earlier diagnosis is crucial because it means earlier treatment. The American Academy of Pediatrics is making a push to have every child screened for autism twice by age 2 (Cohen, 2007). “There are no medical tests for diagnosing autism. An accurate diagnosis must be based on observation of the individual's communication, behavior, and developmental levels” (Autism Society of America, 1996.) Usually autism is diagnosed at around age 3. There is a way to screen for the disorder in babies. For example, a child at around 6 months should have a "to-and-fro pattern of vocalizations between infant and parent" instead of "vocalizing without regard for the parent's speech." This shows that there are no biological tests that can be done but many observational tests can show the characteristics of autism. Many parents can see the differences in their own children as well. Pediatricisans are urged to listen to the parents,
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