Doctors and Diagnosing Autism

When a doctor first suggests that your child has autism, your immediate reaction might be disbelief and the urge to seek a second, third, or even fourth opinion. Because autism is so different in every child, it is a tricky disorder to diagnose. However, there are a few key ways in which doctors can efficiently identify autism in children, and if your infant or toddler is showing any of these signs of autism, you should visit your pediatrician immediately to express your concerns.

Autism occurs at a young age, rather than being a disorder an older child might develop. It is usually detected before the age of three, and many times much earlier. The first signs or autism are usually delays or regression in speech communication. Another early sign is abnormal behavior in group play situations and other social situations. The first step to diagnosing autism is a thorough physical examination as well as a review of family history by a specialist. Although your regular pediatrician will be able to spot unusual behavior, you’ll want your child to be examined by a professional who specializes in autism and other similar diseases to make sure your child is properly diagnosed.

The next step includes hearing tests. Sine language and social skill delays could be due to inadequate auditory sensations. There are two types of auditory tests, one of which records the tones a child can hear and the other of which requires sedation and measures the brain response to certain tones. Of course, the first method is preferred, since it does not require any use of a sedative. After auditory testing, your doctor may encourage testing your child for Fragile X syndrome, which often times goes hand in hand with autism. Metabolism can also be evaluated. To do this, your doctor will need a blood or urine sample to analyze DNA.

An MRI or CAT scan can also be helpful in diagnosing autism. The important thing is to work with doctors you trust. Second opinions can be very helpful, but when your child has been diagnosed, stick with one doctor so that treatment is uniform and so that your child will get used to this person. Autism is difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat, so remember that you should begin to learn as much as possible about the disorder as soon as your doctor identifies it. If you have yet to speak with your doctor about abnormal behavior in your child, do so immediately. By detecting autism early, you give your child a better chance at becoming a high-functioning individual with much more opportunities in life.

Dietary Concerns: Glutton and Casein

Autism is a disorder that must be treated with a variety of methods since there is no effective way to completely cure it. One of the ways you can help keep the symptoms of autism under control is by studying diet. Parents of children with autism have reported that by controlling diet, they see a significant difference in their child’s behavior. Two of the main dietary concerns are glutton and casein.

Glutton is a substance found in many common food products, with wheat, rye, and oaks being the main culprits. Casein is found in dairy products, such as milk. If you or your child with autism eats many foods with these products in them, such as breads or cheeses, you may be able to better control autistic behavior by decreasing consumption of such foods.

The difficulty in digesting both glutton and casein comes from an inability to digestively handle the peptides in these substances. Since they are not broken down as in a normal body, these extra peptides are absorbed into the blood stream. Elevated levels of peptides disrupt major brain functions, contributing to the effects of autism. By cutting foods containing glutton and casein out of you or your child’s diet, you can help the body with the process of breaking down the peptides present in the body. To see if you or your child has a high absorption rate of these peptides, your doctor can administer a simple urine test.

Speak to a nutritionist or doctor before making any major changes in your diet. When you decide to cut glutton and casein from your diet, do not attempt to do this all at once. Cutting anything from your diet suddenly is unhealthy, and your body could go into withdrawal. Instead, slowly begin reducing the amounts of breads, grains, and milk products until you are eating none. You doctor can provide you with a complete list of all the foods containing glutton and casein if you truly want to cut them all from your diet. However, it may be necessary to get the nutrients that you find in glutton and casein products in another way, such as with dietary supplements. Again, your doctor can help in this decision. Overall, maintaining a balanced diet is the healthiest thing to do. Leaving glutton and casein products out of your or your child’s diet may help control autistic behavior, so it is an option that should be considered, but eating a healthy diet altogether is the best way to keep you and your family healthy.

Dealing with Asperger Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome is a relatively mild form of autism that effects people in different ways than regular autism. Because it usually does not affect language, many people with Asperger Syndrome go undiagnosed. This is the one form of autism that is usually not caught at an early age and is instead a disorder that develops later in life. Asperger Syndrome, however, can be a very difficult condition to have, so as soon as you suspect yourself or your child of having communication and social behavior problems, see your family doctor.

Many famous and successful people were diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Historians even suggest that Einstein and Mozart each suffered from this disorder. It is important to note that no form of autism is a form of mental retardation. In fact, most people with Asperger Syndrome are very intelligent. Asperger Syndrome does not dictate mental ability, but rather makes it difficult for people to communicate in social settings, much in the same way a typical autistic child has trouble with behavior in groups. When this disorder goes undiagnosed, children do not get the help they need, leading to problems in school such as bullying. Most children are relieved to find out they have Asperger Syndrome instead of just thinking they are less of a person. By getting diagnosed, not only can you or your child put a name to the problems, but it is then also possible to get treated to improve your overall situation.

Some symptoms to watch out for if you suspect Asperger Syndrome are some of the same symptoms that people with full-blown autism experience. This includes social confusion, first and foremost. Many people with Asperger Syndrome find it very difficult to deal with transition or change, wanting everything to stay the same. A quickly changing environment is especially confusing. People with Asperger Syndrome also may say rude or inappropriate things when they don’t mean to do so, and may not be able to understand others’ thought processes. Another common trait they share with autistic individuals is fixation, although people with Asperger Syndrome usually have more control over their fixations, which take the form of highly focused interests. If you suspect yourself or a loved one of this disorder, these are just a few of the signs for which you should be watching. You doctor should be able to answer further questions and provide both reading material and treatment for this disorder.

Busting the Autism Stereotypes

As with anyone with a physical or mental disorder, autistic people deal with a wide range of reactions from others, from full support to uncaring ignorance. Unfortunately, even those who support autistic family members, co-workers, and friends may not understand autism very well. This leads to stereotypes, which can result in hatred, embarrassment, or other unhappy situations. By becoming educated about autism, you can help others in your community cope with this disorder.

It is most important to note that not all autistic people are the same. Other diseases and disorders have their own sets of rules, but autism is such a complex medical condition, that everyone reacts differently to it. Autistic people are usually rated on a functional scale, with high-functioning people being able to hold jobs and low-functioning people needing 24-hour-a-day care. Symptoms include behavioral challenges, uncontrollable movements, speech and communication difficulties, and emotional inadequacies. Some show all symptoms, while other show few, and still others may have most under control to the point where you cannot tell they have autism at all.

Because every person is different, no one thing can be said about autism and be true overall. However, most autistic people have trouble communicating emotions. This does not mean that an autistic person does not feel. He or she simply cannot express this feeling. It also does not mean strong relationship bonds are not possible. On the contrary, many autistic people are happily married and in love. Forming relationships is more difficult for most, but can be accomplished over time.

Many people believe that being autistic coincides with being a genius in some aspect. While it is true that some autistic individuals have extraordinary math, music, and art skills, this number is nowhere near the majority-in fact, relatively few autistic people function outside of the normal range in any skill. This stereotype is perpetuated in the movies and on television, because the story of a talented person fighting disadvantages (such as autism) makes a good plot. However, this is not the norm, so nothing more than the best they can personally do should be expected from an autistic person. However, it is important to note that autism is not a form of mental retardation. Some autistic people are mentally retarded as well, but most are not and should not be treated as such.

In the end, the most important lesson to take away from your studies on autism is one of tolerance. You will probably need to be patient when dealing with autistic people, but by understanding a little more about the disorder, perhaps this will be easier. Learn what you can and spread the knowledge to those you know to help create a more tolerant setting for autistic individuals in your community.

Bottles of Pills: Medication Options for Autistic Patients

As with any illness, disease, or disorder, there are a number of medicine options available to help control these symptoms. It is important to remember that none of these medications will “cure” autism; they simply help control some of the effects of the disorder. There are advantages and disadvantages to each drug, as they all have side effects as well as benefits. When choosing medicines to effectively treat autism, your doctor can make recommendations, but since autism is a disorder which varies from person to person, you should use drugs very carefully, watching to see how the body reacts to the treatments.

First, consider the safety of the drug. Some cannot be used in children or in people under a certain weight. Make sure the dosage is easy to understand and before you choose one medicine or another find out how it is administered (pills, injections, liquid, etc). This is important if you are not comfortable with certain methods, such as injecting yourself or your child. Also find out how safe the drug is to individuals who do not suffer from autism. If you have small children in the house, you’ll want to be sure that the drug is not lethal if it gets into the wrong hands. Find out what to do in case this happens, just to be on the safe side.

Also consider the side effects of the drugs you are considering. While they may be very good at controlling aggression, responsiveness, hyperactivity, or other autistic tendencies, they may also cause sedation or other side effects such as nausea or dizziness. Weigh your options carefully before beginning one of these treatments, or you could find yourself with ten bottles of pills, each taken to counteract the side effects of another. Also remember that medications may have long-term effects. Will you or your child become dependent on the drug? Will you be tolerant? How else will it affect the body over time? These are all important questions to ask your doctor before beginning any medication.

You can research the many studies on these drugs at your local library or on the Internet. Publications such as journals and healthcare magazines are probably most current and most reliable, whereas you may get some altered information on the World Wide Web, so be careful about following advice you find without first consulting your doctor. He or she may also be able to provide you with literature about the medication options available for autistic patients. Do your researching on the many choices before making any decisions, and you’ll be able to better control your health.

Bad Apples on the Family Tree

The news that a child in the family is autistic is most often met with a number of reactions. While all family members, even extended, would be supportive in an ideal world, the sad truth is that many are disgusted or disappointed. Does a family member scold the autistic child often? Does he or she look at your autistic child unfairly? Does this family member insist on treating your autistic child the same way he or she treats all the other children in your family, even when it is inappropriate? These are signs that this relative is not receptive to either your autistic child or the situation. This may often be the case when discovering a child is autistic, so as a parent, be aware and prepared for this to happen.

Often, unreceptive relatives simply do not understand what autism is or what it means for your child and your immediate family. Though many see autism as a mental retardation, many autistic children and adults are highly intelligent; they are just unable to communicate this in the same ways that others would. Try explaining what autism means to this family member, and have him or her spend some time with you and your autistic child. Allow them to see the effects of autism and the methods you can use to cope.

If the family member continues to be unsupportive or refuses your explanation, ask why this family member is so unreceptive to the situation. Are they scared of hurting the child? Are they worried about the added responsibility when spending time with the child? Perhaps they feel guilty or are embarrassed. If you can pinpoint why a family member is unreceptive, you can better address the issue and hopefully help him or her overcome their original perceptions.

Perhaps no amount of talking or spending time together will help this family member overcome their prejudice. If this person has stubbornly made up his or her mind, you will never be able to show him or her how beautiful your son or daughter is-autism and all. If this is the case, eliminating this person from your life may be difficult, but it will also rid you and your child of this family member’s negative energy and personality. In this developing situation, you need the best positive support available. Remember that other family members have been supportive; that your children are adjusting well and are a source of strength for you. Strengthen your support network by participating in parent support groups for autistic children. And remember that you can surround yourself with those who do accept and love your child-family or not.

Autistic Forms of Teaching and Tolerance

Understanding how autistic children learn is key to teaching them with the same intensity as you teach other children. This may seem like a straightforward idea, but autistic children learn so differently that understanding autism itself is a must when you teach autistic children. By becoming educated in the disorder, teachers can effectively learn to deal with autistic children and adults both in and out of the classroom, creating a more understanding world for everyone

Autistic children are often visual thinkers. Thus teaching by speaking will not be entirely effective. Teachers should combine pictures with words for the autistic child to fully comprehend the lesson. For instance, if you are teaching about the animals of the world, you should have a flash card with the word “mouse,” say the word aloud slowly and clearly, and show the child a picture of a mouse. Perhaps even bring a live mouse in for show and tell. Nouns may be easier to teach autistic children since verbs require action and can be more difficult in illustrating. If you are teaching autistic children words such as “sit” or “stand,” you should complete these actions when you teach the word. Also, because of the tendency to be visual, autistic children are often unable to follow long sentences. They cannot decipher the sequence and become confused. Thus, writing instructions can be very helpful when proctoring tests or quizzes.

As visual thinkers, autistic children can often fixate on a particular object or picture. If this is the case, try incorporating that object or picture into lesson plans. If the child likes planes, try using planes for visuals wherever you can in the lesson. For example, when teaching math, create word problems about planes to interest the child. Autistic children also tend to be artistic or musical, producing highly original drawings and showing above average abilities with instruments or voice. Set aside time in the day for the arts and encourage activities that the children enjoy.

Autistic children may also have trouble writing because of the control over their hands and movement. This is frustrating for both the child and the teacher. To reduce frustration, allow the child to use a computer. If you can do this, make sure that the keyboard and monitor are close together as the child may have difficulty remembering what he or she has typed recently.

By being open to teaching an autistic child to the best of your ability, you are not only giving him or her the best opportunities in life, but you are also being a good role model to the other children in the class. Do not allow an autistic child to ruin the learning experience for others, but rather incorporate his or her oddities into your lessons as much as possible. Creating a more prejudice-free classroom is the best gift you can give this child.

Autistic Children and the Strain on Marriage

Unfortunately, in modern times, many marriages end in divorce or separation. This statistic rises even higher when you mix in an autistic child. No matter how loving and understanding you both may be towards your child, the truth is that autism is a very difficult matter, and strain on the marriage is not uncommon. By trying to stay positive about your situation, and by working to keep your marriage healthy, you and your spouse can avoid marital problems and hopefully survive the trying times of raising an autistic child.

Why did you marry your husband or wife? By asking yourself this question often, you can focus on the good things in your marriage. Raising a child with autism is stressful, and if you are stressed, you have a tendency to snap at another person for the smallest missteps. Instead of focusing on these bad qualities, take some time to enjoy one another the way you did at the beginning of the relationship. This may include spending some time apart from your children. When you find out that your child is autistic, it is beneficial to make sure that you and your spouse are not the only two people with whom your child will respond. A grandparent, aunt or uncle, mature sibling, or nanny are good people to have in your child’s life in the most intimate way possible. This way, alone time with your spouse is possible.

Work together with your spouse to help you child, instead of fighting with one another. It is very likely that you will have different ideas about what to do in certain situations, so be prepared to compromise and always seek professional consultations before making any medical decisions for your child. By working together, remember that you are giving your child the best opportunities. Try to set apart time every week to spend together as a family, especially if one parent or the other is the primary caregiver.

Lastly, seek help when you need it. Part of any successful marriage is spending some time apart to focus on individual needs, and it is no different when you have an autistic child. However, if you find that you and your spouse are not happy unless you are spending time alone, it is time to reevaluate the situation. A family or marriage counselor can help you and your spouse get back on the right track to a happy life together. It might also be beneficial to meet other couples raising autistic children. You are not alone, and it is never easy. By making an effort to keep your marriage happy, even when you are stressed with the task of raising an autistic child, you and your spouse can ensure that your marriage does not end in a messy divorce.

Are We There Yet? Family Vacations with Autistic Children

Although planning a family vacation with children may make any parents pull out his or her hair, it can be a rewarding experience for everyone in the end. It is no different if you have an autistic child in the family. The important thing to remember is that you need to be prepared for whatever life throws your way. To an autistic child, vacations can be scary and confusing, or they can be a great learning experience, leaving behind wonderful memories the entire family can enjoy.

First, choose your location based on your autistic child’s needs. For example, if he or she is sensitive to sound, an amusement park is probably not the best idea. Quieter vacations are possible at small beaches and by going camping. Overall, you should be able to find a location that everyone in the family enjoys. Once there, plan out your days accordingly. For example, you may want to see attractions very early or late in the day to avoid crowds. You also might want to consider taking your vacation during the off-season, if you children’s school work will not be disrupted. These gives your autistic child more comfort if he or she is nervous in crowded situations, and provides you with piece of mind. When choosing a location, also note how far it is from you home. How will you get there? If you have to deal with an airport, remember that security may have to touch your child and be prepared for this.

Choose a location and activities that everyone can enjoy, but also that provide learning and social interaction opportunities for your autistic child. For example, a child that does not like touch sensations may enjoy the soft sands of a beach, and the waves can provide a very different kind of feeling for him or her. Being outside, a beach is also a great place for your child to yell without disrupting others. Children who are normally non-responsive may benefit from a museum , where they can ask questions and you can ask questions of them.

Remember that most people on vacation at the location you choose will have never dealt with autism before. Try to be understanding of their ignorance-but also stick up for your child if he or she is being treated unfairly. Know your child’s constitutional laws, and also be willing to compromise. For example, if a restaurant is reluctant to serve you after your child caused a scene there last night, explain the situation and ask if it would be possible to take your food to go, even if this is normally not done. Try not to be rude to people; staring often happens, but instead of snide comments or mean looks, ignore them as much as possible and focus on having a good time with your family

Achieving Self-control with Autism

Self-discipline is a skill that most autistic children have trouble acquiring. This includes not only inappropriate outbursts, but also habits that can be potentially dangerous, such as being aggressive towards others or causing harm to themselves, such as banging their heads off walls. To prevent these and other behaviors, one technique parents and educators can use to control autistic tendencies is self-management. Giving the child power over him- or herself is often the key to keeping control over violent situations and may be a positive step towards learning other behaviors as well.

Self-management works because the child is no longer fully controlled by others. By teaching self-management during specific times of day, such as while the child is at school or therapy, the child will be more likely to continue to practicing self-control during all times of the day. The key is to implement a program in which he or she monitors his or her own behavior and activities. Begin with short amounts of time, and continue to monitor the child from a more passive standpoint. Every ten to fifteen minutes remind the child that he or she is in control and needs to monitor and be aware of good and bad behavior.

This monitoring is a form of self-evaluation. When a child is in control, he or she may think more closely about behavior in the past and present. Set clear goals with the child-for example, an afternoon with no aggression towards others or a day at school with no self-injury. Every fifteen minutes ask the child how he or she is doing. Is the goal being met? If the answer is no, perhaps the child is not ready for self-management, or perhaps the goals are too unattainable. You want to make sure that the goals are easy to reach at first, and then move the child towards more difficult goals in the future. When a child is successful at self-monitoring, he or she will have a more positive attitude towards the experience.

Of course, an important part of self-management is a rewards system. Have the child come up with his or her own reward, depending on interest. Reinforcement will make these good behavior goals more clearly marked in the child’s mind, and by choosing and rewarding him- or herself, the child will feel completely in control of the self-management system. Choose simple rewards to start, such as smiley faces for every goal met and sad faces for every goal not met, and work up to a larger goal, such as a special activity or new toy when a certain amount of smiley faces has been attained.

These types of programs do not develop overnight, so it is important that you and the child have enough time to devote to a self-management experience. By reinforcing good behavior with rewards, as determined by the child instead of by an adult, he or she will be more likely to carry this on even when not participating in the program. If your autistic child is mature enough, this could be a good treatment program to try.