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According to Sternberg (1995), autism is a syndrome of childhood characterized by a lack
of social relationship, a lack of communication abilities, and highly restricted range of interest.
Autism is also known as pervasive development disorder (PDD). Children who are autistic also
lack in intellectual development. Autism occurs in 0.04% of the population and it is also four
times more likely to occur in boys as in girls. Autism is a disorder that has no definite
explanation and an effective treatment has not been developed. There is no specific test for
autism but it is defined by its symptoms (Paluszny, 1979).
According to Murray (1996), there are four signs that almost always appear in children
diagnosed as autistic: social isolation, cognitive deficits, language deficits, and ritualistic motor
The first sign is social isolation; autistic children do not relate to surrounding people and
may remove themselves from all social contact. The autistic child does not seem to be aware of
the persons in his or her environment. Autistic children have a hard time dealing with
relationships and this will go on into adulthood. Autistic children can also form an obsession for
objects, like a toy. He can be content if left alone to play repetitively with some toy or object. If
she is interfered with, tantrums and uncontrollable crying may take place.
A second sign is cognitive deficits. Most individuals with autism are also mentally
retarded. A survey done by the University of Utah shows that sixty-six percent of the 241
autistic individuals scored lower than a 70 on standardized IQ tests. Autistic children usually do
better on tests that deal with their sensorimotor abilities (Shulman, Yirmiya, & Greenbaum,
1195). They may respond to only a limited number of cues. They seem not to see the world
from another\'s point of view. Cognitive, social, and motor developments corresponds to mental
age rather than chronological age.
Next, is the language deficits. More than one half of autistic children do not speak at all,
or simply repeat what they hear from their surroundings or repeat what others say to them
(Murray, 1996). According to Sigman & Capps (1997), autistic children in the early stages of
language development show frequent use of language to obtain a desired object, but less frequent
use of language to serve social functions. Mentally retarded autistic children who are able to
understand and use language have broader life experiences.
Ritualistic motor activity and preservation of sameness
The fourth is the ritualistic motor activity and preservation of sameness (Murray, 1996).
Most autistic children tend to repeat a limited number of movements endlessly, such as rocking
or head-banging. Their behaviors are stereotypical, repetitive, and show no variation. The
behaviors of an autistic child can become noticeable. Some behaviors can cause physical harm;
sometimes they would show little or no response to pain. Autistic children are obsessed about
keeping their surroundings the same. Everything must be in the same place. Less than one
quarter of autistic children adjust to adolescence and adulthood. Between forty to seventy
percent of people diagnosed with autism live their lives in institutions.
There are no definite explanations for the childhood disorder and researchers have not
developed any effective treatments. Autism is a biological disorder. There are a number of
proposed explanations to autism. According to Sternberg (1995), there are the psychodynamic
explanations, learning theory explanations, and cognitive explanations, but the most successful
one have been the psychophysiological explanations. Those who are autistic show no
abnormalities of the brain, but they have discovered lesions in the brain stem of some children.
Researchers have seen numerous differences by comparing the brains of children with autism
with the brains of children who does not have the disorder, They have also found enlarged
ventricles, reversed cerebral asymmetry, more active right than left cerebral hemispheres. There
have also been some indications of biochemical imbalances in autistic children. There are also
four neurophysiological explanations for autism (Murray, 1996).
Genetic factors have been studied in twins, siblings, and families (Murray, 1996). Autism
is significantly associated with the X syndrome and untreated phenylketonuria. Autism is also
common in siblings. A survey done by the University of Utah shows that familial rates of
autistic children\'s siblings suffering from autism are over 200 times more likely than in the
general population. Minton, Campbell, Green, Jennings, and Samit compared thirty autistic
children, ages two to six years old, with 50 siblings, three to nineteen years old, and
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Autism, Outline of autism, Causes of autism
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