Autism occurs in 4.5 children out of every 10,000 births, and effects 3 times as many boys as it does girls. Any form of trauma does not cause it; it is something that a person is born with. In 1911 a psychiatrist named Eugene Bleue r, was the first to discover autism, but he referred to it as a basic disturbance in schizophrenia. In the early 1940’s two pioneers named Leo Kenner and Hans Asperger published accounts of this disorder. They contained detailed descriptions, and offered the very first attempt to explain autism. Eighty percent of autistic people are seen as mentally retarded.
Autistic people seem isolated, and detached from the world, sort of like they are in their own dream world, which is what separates them from mentally retarded people. They don’t seem aware that people are around them, including family members. Another thing that separates them from the mentally retarded is their display of strange postures, manners, habits, and compulsions. They might display rocking, hand flapping, strange food preferences, no eye contact, head banging, an insensitivity to pain, and other dangerous behavior. They are also often infatuated with inanimate objects. About 50% of all autistic individuals are mute, or only speak once or twice in their entire life span.
Non mute autistic people can produce words and sentences, but have trouble using language as an effective means of communication. If they do develop useful speech, it starts to make sense and have purpose around the age 6 or 7. Even the best functioning autistic stutters, and has many problems communicating. They may display many strange language mechanics. For example, instead o saying, “I like to go fishing”, they ” ll say”, You like to go fishing”. They might also repeat a question rather than answering it.
About 10% of autistic people display great consistency. They have great memory, fascination with mechanical objects, and obsession with sameness in their environment, for example, having to have the furniture in the house placed in an exact order, or having to eat at a certain time everyday like clockwork. They may also have unusual skills in music, art, and computation. The most successful form of treatment for autism is an intensive and purposeful behavior modification program. In these programs, the correct way of behaving is taught is small increments and the reinforced almost immediately after they respond. If the autistic person starts at about the age of 3 or 4, then they may display near-normal behavior.
Drugs are often used on autistic people, but they usually have very limited results, and many side effects. Magnesium and B 6 show significant change in about 50% of autistic people. Despite all the treatments that doctors have tried on autistic people, many still remain severely impaired. Some even needs to be put in institutions. Only a very small few have spontaneously recovered and written to tell about it.
Uta Frith, Autism, Blackwell publishing, 1989, Massachusetts, pgs.
7-15. -Academic American Encyclopedia, volume 2, Grolier Inc., 1988, Connecticut, pgs.
167-179. -The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, Gale Research, 1996, Michigan, pgs.