"Alan, just wanted to thank you for
a great book sensitively written."
Joe W - Colorado
"Alan, just wanted to let you know,
your practical tips are right on the money. Thank you for sharing
them. Wonderful book"
Leslie M - Utah
"Alan, your book should be required
reading for every parent and professional involved in teaching
these special children"
Alice M - Australia
"Mr Yau, your book has helped turn
what I thought was the worst thing that could happen into the
most enriching experience of our lives"
Mrs E Jay - NYC
"Hey Alan, gotta say your PowerPoint
teaching aids are somethin else buddy. So simple but so effective.
Worth the cover price on thier own. Good job"
N Ryan - Florida
"Dr Alan*, I was skeptical but we
found you book so useful. I simply couldn't put it down. We
noticed a difference after only a few days"
W Ocata - SA
* I am NOT and never claim to
be a doctor but have left comment as received - Alan
What is Autism?
A general introduction
Autism is a life-long developmental disability which affects
how a person communicates & relates to other people. Autism
is usually diagnosed at a very young age, say, when a child
is 18 months to four years of age.
Autism is one of five disorders which fall into the category
of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (or PDD for short). PDD
neurological disorders are often defined as sufferers having
"severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development".
The Autistic Spectrum
Because it affects different people in differently ways, autism
is known as a spectrum disorder, you will often hear it referred
to as the autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
You may also encounter different terms used to describe children
within this spectrum, such as autistic-like, autistic tendencies,
autism spectrum, high-functioning or low-functioning autism,
more-abled or less-abled.
More important than the term used to describe autism is understanding
that, whatever the diagnosis, children with autism can learn
and function normally and show improvement with appropriate
treatment and education.
Research indicates, however, that early intervention in an
appropriate educational setting for at least two years during
the preschool years can result in significant improvements for
many young children with autism spectrum disorders.
For some, these treatments have proven to be very successful,
helping kids on the spectrum lead a full and active life.
Although the characteristics of autism are generally evident
in the first few years of life, the condition can go undetected
for many years especially in those who are at the more able
end of the spectrum where the signs are more subtle.
Sometimes it may be necessary for a child to be referred to
a specialist centre for assessment as local professionals will
not always be familiar with the spectrum of autistic conditions.
Parents of Autistic Children
Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in
their child or their child's failure to reach appropriate developmental
milestones and are especially sensitive to picking up autism
symptoms in a younger sibling.
Given the difficulties which sometime arise in diagnosing autism,
parents can help by telling the doctor how the child acts at
home. Remember, every child is different and some autistic children
appear normal until quite late in their development.
Symptoms of Autism
Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe. Not everybody
with autism has the exact same symptoms. Autism can be difficult
to diagnose as it is a complex condition and symptoms are variable.
One of the reasons that autism is sometimes hard to diagnose
is because the symptoms are so varied. Children do not "outgrow"
autism but symptoms may lessen as the child develops and receives
treatment. Autism is distinguished by a pattern of symptoms
rather than one single symptom.
Sample symptoms include lack of social or emotional reciprocity,
stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic
language, and persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.
Common symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome, for example, include
social problems, vulnerability to sensory overload, awkward
posture, and a tendency to take many figures of speech literally.
Research into Autism
The exact cause or causes of autism are still not known but
research shows that genetic factors are important. Research
suggests that it's probably a combination of genes that causes
the disorder, not a single autism gene.
New research shows that children as young as one may exhibit
signs of autism, so recognizing early signs and knowing developmental
milestones is important. The application of new techniques in
autism research is being proposed, including the investigation
of abnormal regulation of gene expression, proteomics, and the
use of MRI and postmortem analysis of the brain.
Vaccines and Autism
Though the debate over the role that vaccines play in causing
autism grows more heated every day, researchers have still not
found a definitive link between the two. However, no research
has ever proved a link, and the overwhelming majority of experts
believe the vaccine is safe.
Large-scale independent investigations on the possible link
between live virus vaccines, MMR, and autism should be undertaken.
Autism and Language Skills
Language and hearing impairments can also be confused with
autism. Many children with autism can develop good functional
language and others can develop some type of communication skills,
such as sign language or use of pictures.
Some people with the condition may have an absence of language
skills while others go on to earn college degrees.
Autism and Behavior
Behavioral therapy is aimed at teaching these children how
to learn. Autism is not treated with surgery or medicine (although
some people with autism may take medicine to improve certain
symptoms, like aggressive behavior or attention problems).
Many professionals feel that some of the typical autism behaviors,
like the ones listed above, are actually a result of sensory
integration difficulties. Most autistic children are perfectly
normal in appearance, but spend their time engaged in puzzling
and disturbing behaviors which are markedly different from those
of typical children.