Unlocking Autism

Welcome Back~

I’m sorry for posting this later than usual, but I have been out and about today. I enjoyed my weekend, getting time to spend with my father. He helped me to develop a plan of action for writing my book; now if I can only stick to it. Hopefully, the new Christian CD I bought featuring Mandisa will help provide me with the motivation. Wish me luck, I really do need it-because lately I haven’t felt like writing.

But anyway, on to today’s post. Recently, there was a documentary featured on the Discovery Health Channel looking at autism from both a scientific and human perspective. In “Unlocking Autism”, scientists consider the many different factors that can contribute to the disorder. Autism is largely considered a behavioral disorder impacting one out of every 150 children. This increase in diagnoses have caused many to question it as well as its origins. Questions like “Where Did It come from?”, “Is it in fact Hereditary or Environmentally Impacted?” are at the center of the debate.

“At the moment when a child is diagnosed with autism, parents feel helpless that there isn’t something that the scientific community and the clinical community is offering them,” says Richard Amaral, Research Director for the UC Davis M.I.N.D Institute.

While the causes of autism remain a mystery, parents are willing to try anything-even alternative therapies-to help their children. Jackie is one such parent. Her three-year-old son Fintan has autism; as well as trying conventional therapies such as occupational and speech therapy, she has also tried oxygen therapy and chelation (taking metals from the body). Today, she has enrolled her son to take part in the Autism Phenome Project. This study is the largest of its kind , funded by The M.I.N.D. hopes to provide more insight into the disorder and some characteristics that set it apart. In all, a total of 1800 children will participate.

Although many of the symptoms of autism are the same despite its severity, scientists are still having trouble distinguishing one type of autism from another. Common symptoms include a difficulty with communication, socialization problems (being able to bond with people), and a stickler for routines or organizational skills.

The testing includes taking 3-D pictures of his brain; these may show any abnormalities as far as shape and size. According to research, about 20% of people with autism have enlarged heads. This may be because the frontal lobe has not developed properly.

But for right now, the most effective form of therapy focuses on intensive behavioral therapy in the early stages of child development.

“The window is open in a special way in infancy. In infancy babies’ brains are literally forming. Neurons are moving, they’re establishing connections. They’re connecting by extending out little processes to each other with a little gap that the currents can actually flow across and that is how one neuron communicates with another and how the brain manages to talk to itself. After all these connections form, a baby has a lot more connections than they will ever need and so the brain actually starts to clear away some of the clutter, it’s called pruning..” says Sally Rogers, one of the leading behavioral therapist at the MInd Institute.

Unfortunately, not everyone has had early intervention for their for their autism. That is when programs like the ones at the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center comes into play. These programs teach the importance of social skills for teenagers as well as the right way to get way you get what you want.

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Citation for TV Program: “Unlocking Autism “, Discovery Health channel 161 DHC . April 6, 2009 at 11 PM. (Original air time, 8 PM, repeat)

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