April is Autism Awareness Month. Autism is a developmental disorder that causes difficulties with social communication and interaction and restrictive and repetitive patterns of behavior. Autism is not a single medical condition. In 2013, autism disorders such as Asperger syndrome, classic autism, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified were grouped together under one disorder called Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD.
According to the Centers for Disease Control(CDC), approximately 1 in 68 children in the United States has ASD. ASD has been reported in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. It is 4.5 times more common in boys than in girls. Children in lower socioeconomic groups and children of color are more likely to be diagnosed later and have less access to treatment.
The cause of ASD is not clear, but it is believed to be a genetic disorder that affects brain development. Environmental factors such as toxic exposures, infections before birth and complications during delivery may cause a small number of cases. Environmental factors may increase the risk of developing ASD in children with a genetic predisposition. There is a persistent misconception that ASD is caused by childhood vaccinations specifically thimerosal; a mercury preservative that is no longer used in vaccinations. The majority of scientific studies do not support a connection between vaccinations and ASD.
Symptoms of ASD are usually recognized between 2 and 3 years of age. The majority of children with ASD are identified when parents notice a child does not speak by age 2. Symptoms of ASD encompass two broad areas; social interaction and communication and limited interests. Signs of ASD include:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Inability to play pretend games
- Repeating actions over and over
- Trouble adapting to changes in routine
- Unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel or sound
- Appear unaware when other people talk to them
- Prefer not to be held or cuddled
- Trouble understanding other people’s feelings
- Trouble talking about their feelings
- Not looking at objects when another person points to them
- Avoiding eye contact
- Wants to be alone
- Trouble relating to others or not having an interest in other people at all
- Trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
- Loss of skills they once had, stop using words they were once using
ASD is a chronic condition; there is no cure, however, treatment is available. Treatment has a better chance of positively impacting a child’s functioning over time the earlier a child is diagnosed and treatment begins. Treatment focuses on behavioral and educational interventions and needs to be individualized for each child.
The child’s age, diagnosis, and underlying medical conditions should be considered when planning treatment. The goals of treatment include:
- Improve social functioning
- Improve communication skills
- Improve adaptive skills
- Improve academic functioning
Resources for families of children with ASD include:
- Autism Society of America
- Autism Speaks
- First Signs
- The Autism Navigator
- Learn the Signs. Act Early.
Earn you BNS degree
Have you been searching for nursing schools in MN? Look no further than Minnesota School of Business & Globe University, where you can prepare to have an impact on patient health. We can help you develop a strong foundation with courses focused on nursing care and leadership applications and theory. Our holistic nursing curriculum, offered at Minnesota School of Business — Richfield, can get you ready to make an impact in an entry-level nursing role. Get more information here.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (2016 April 11). Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (2015 December 16). Retrieved from www.uptodate.com/contents/autism-spectrum-disorder
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (2016 March). Retrieved from www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd
Written by Claire Keller, RN, full-time peds/ med/surgical clinical instructor at Minnesota School of Business – Richfield.