The topic of my report is Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). It is estimated that as many as 1 in 80 people are affected by ASD. I have Autism and believe more people need to understand the difference between ASD and other genetic disorders like Mental Retardation or Cerebral Palsy. Most people with ASD, especially High Functioning Autism, like I have, are very intelligent and gifted in a wide variety of areas, such as art, science, mathematics and music.
A genetic disorder is caused by abnormalities in genes or chromosomes. There are, sometimes, abnormalities in the chromosomes of an Autistic person. These are deletion, duplication, and inversion. Deletion is when some genes exist in one chromosome, but not the other. Duplication is when some genes have two matches on the second chromosome. Inversion is when some genes are just flipped upside down. Some scientists believe that Autism has specific genes for the different parts of the spectrum. Sometimes ASD can result in co-existing disorders, like epilepsy, mental illness, gastrointestinal issues, and sleep disorders. If a child is born with Autism, children afterwards are more likely to have ASD as well.
Above: deletion (1) duplication (2) and inversion (3).
There are strong genetic links to ASD but it is believed environment can also play a part in its development. Autism spectrum disorders are not illnesses. It is not a disease to be cured. Autism is about how the brain develops. Because Autism affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves, it affects every part of their life. Learning to live with ASD takes strength and dedication for the person and their family
Autism was discovered in 1943 by Leo Kanner. He believed Autism was caused by cold, unloving parents. This is a stigma that still exists. Scientists have since proven that of all the possible causes of ASD, poor parenting is not one of them. The National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) seeks to raise awareness and understanding of what is now the most common of all developmental disorders.
Children with ASD tend to write slowly or have poor handwriting. They are often focused on things with such intensity, they can’t break free to pay attention to what’s going on around them. When told to describe a person’s face, they have difficulty completing the task. They usually have disabilities such as social and communication difficulty, because it is often hard for them to read or understand another’s intent or emotions. People with ASD have advantages as well. They have a greater ability to find small objects in a cluttered field. An example of this would be: noticing an object someone else can’t find. They are often gifted in many areas.
There are five forms of ASD: Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Rett’s syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. While the other forms of ASD affect mostly males, Rett’s syndrome affects female almost exclusively. Asperger’s syndrome has no significant language development delay, if any, and yet every other part of the Autistic spectrum shows this delay.
While some believe Autism is a disease to be cured, most High Functioning Autistics and people with Asperger’s Syndrome believe it is how we are wired. The focus for us is not on a cure but on learning to adapt the way we think and feel to a world that is very different to us. There are many support groups for people with ASD and their families. There are group therapies that help people with ASD understand the world around them and their part in it. There are treatments to help us manage the overwhelming amount of information we absorb at all times. It’s the reason many people with ASD retreat into repetitive or unhealthy behaviors, to get a break from the world.
For me, Autism is less of a disability, more of a puzzle missing just one single piece, and managing it for me is like saying “So what? One piece isn’t there. Just one. No reason to throw away 999 pieces just because the 1000th isn’t there.”
*NOTE FROM MOM*
John not only received 100% on his project, the teacher asked to keep it to share with other teachers. His project was the only one in book form. It goes without saying, he was the only person who served as his own visual aid. ;-) All other projects were done using PowerPoint or poster board... so John was extra proud of finding a unique way the do his report and that his teacher was impressed enough to want to share it. HOW AWESOME!