About Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Most people have heard about autism and it is a recognizable childhood constraint that is not so uncommon that you are never likely to come across somebody who suffers with autism: in fact, as many as 1 in every 110 individuals is autistic, with a higher incidence of males to females. There is no need to avoid people with autism, however, as they can’t pass it on to you and you can’t catch it from them no matter what you do or how close you get. Autism is something sufferers are born with. It is regarded as a disorder that affects the child’s development due to the activities of the brain being affected.

In fact, autism fits into a group of developmental conditions that has become known, in recent years, as PDD, or pervasive developmental disorder. The best known one of these PDDs is autism which is the reason that this group of developmental disorders is often referred to as ASD, or autism spectrum disorder. This often causes problems with communication and the normal childhood milestones. It also results in a person with autism having problems with social interactions, sometimes having an intelligence that is lower than average, or having an intelligence that is higher than average. People who are known to be autistic have great difficulty relating to people at an everyday level, with children often experiencing hindered language development.

Sensory perception is also affected, with altered states of awareness, lighter and brighter colors, louder sounds and more intense smells: in fact, everything experienced appears to be at a more profound intensity than individuals without this developmental disability. Another well-known condition that comes within the aegis of PDD is Asperger syndrome, whilst Rett Syndrome and CDD [childhood disintegrative disorder] are two lesser known developmental disorders within this particular spectrum of medical Synapse xt disorders.

Is it Known how Autism Occurs?

Autism affects each sufferer differently and, for every person with autism, there is a different degree of affliction, some having autistic symptoms that are very mild whilst others are very profoundly affected. It is this wide spectrum that causes doctors to believe that autism is partly due to genetics and partly due to influencing environmental aspects. So far researchers have established that autism is not caused by any viral infection and, although a family with one autistic child is more likely to have another, they know autism doesn’t occur as the result of anything the parents have done when raising their children.

Within our brains there are 100 billion neurons. These neurons, or nerve cells, carry electrical impulses that jump across little gaps between the many thousands of connections. These gaps are called synapses. The way electrical currents can jump across synapses is due to a biochemical process that lowers the number of potassium chemicals [potassium ions] on one side of the synapse whilst, at the same time, increasing the number of sodium ions. This is referred to as ‘opening the gateway’.

When the gateway opens, there is an exchange of ions from one neuron to the next, enabling the electrical impulse to jump across the gap. The gateway then closes behind it and another gateway opens in front of it. In this way an electrical impulse leaves the brain and will travel to different parts of the body. All our senses depend on these electrical impulses, including communication and how we behave. The gateways are affected by the quantity of chemical messengers the brain sends out: these are called neurotransmitters and they are chemicals as well.

There are lots of different kinds, such as dopamine and serotonin, although there are many more. Each one interacts with another one and they all rely on a very delicate balance between all of them, so it is hardly surprising that, sometimes, things don’t go exactly according to plan and something gets mixed up or misfires. This can cause problems such as autism.

Other from that, research continues. At present doctors and researchers still don’t know for sure why some children develop autism and why some children don’t. Furthermore, there are no tests that can identify whether a child is exhibiting autistic symptoms or not. Usually, autism is identified when a child is aged between 18 months and 4 years, often by doctors ruling out other causes for the child’s lack of spontaneity or development.


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