08 February 13
The Causes, Effects, and Treatments of Autism
In 1994, Dr. Hans Asperger published the findings of a study that he had performed. The study detailed four young children that he had observed. The four children exhibited what would come to be known as common autistic behaviors. However, they were still able to function in the real world, and they displayed an aptitude for discussing their favorite subjects at great length and in great detail. Dr. Hans, his contemporaries, and followers have described certain characteristics as autistic. Autism is defined as ???disorders characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors??? (“What is Autism”). Autism has many possible causes, many effects, and many different forms of teaching options.
First, there are many myths about the causes of autism and many possible causes. The myths are causes people first considered but later discounted. The most prominent myth about what causes autism is vaccines. Research has shown that vaccines do not cause autism in children. Autism is a neurological-behavioral disorder that cannot be caused by physiological trauma (Piper-Terry, M.S.). People also believed that autism was caused by a mother that neglected her child, and these mothers were referred to as ???refrigerator mothers??? because they were cold and uncaring. This too was proven untrue (Badcock, Ph. D.).
Now, researchers believe in many different possible causes of autism. For example, a popular theory states that autism is caused by genetics. Researchers have cited 70 or more genes with the potential to cause neurological disorders– like autism– and are linked to factors that include: old parents, maternal illness during pregnancy and oxygen deprivation during development. Chemicals in food and the atmosphere are a potential as well. Chemicals such as non-stick bake spray, organophosphate pesticides, mercury and PCBs are all linked to children that developed autism. Research suggests that these chemicals are harmful to the brains of developing fetuses and babies. Also, environmental factors–vehicle exhaust and increased exposure to air pollution and pesticides–are prospective causes of autism. These environmental factors are also harmful to a developing brain (Zerbe).
Next, there are many effects and symptoms of autism. The three main areas autism affects are the social, behavioral, and emotional parts of a personality. First, autism affects the social part of a personality. For instance, autism can cause children to have trouble communicating through both vocal and non-vocal styles because children with autism have trouble comprehending speech, particularly figurative speech. They also have trouble reading non-verbal cues such as body language. In addition, autistic people have trouble making friends because of their idiosyncrasies and anti-social tendencies. They also prefer not to speak, even once they have the ability to speak (“Effects of Autism on Communication”).
Soon, autism affects the behavioral part of a personality. The tantrums autism children throw illustrate this. Autistic children often have meltdowns because they are unable to understand a situation or feel uncomfortable in a situation. This is a complete loss of control and a child may need outside help to bring him or her back into line (Hansen). Additionally, children with autism often are extremely rigid and ritualistic. They have a hard time coping with schedule changes and alterations, particularly if it puts them in an unfamiliar situation. Autistic children enjoy the sameness and predictability of a never-changing daily schedule, which prevents stress and anxiety (“Obsessions, repetitive behaviour and routines.”). Children with autism prefer to have the exact same circumstances from day to day to avoid any anxiety. Also, children with autism have odd playtime habits. They often rearrange their toys into patterns, categories or sort them based on sometimes unknown criteria (Naber 857-866).
Next, Autism affects the emotional part of a personality. Children with autism have a subdued emotional response to common situations, and they lack theory of mind. First, autistic children have a subdued emotional response. They display little to no excitement over good news like going to the beach, and display little to no sadness over bad news like a pet dying (Kim 391). This is caused by a lack of Theory of Mind. Theory of mind is defined as ???…being able to infer the full range of mental states . . . that cause action. In brief, having a theory of mind is to be able to reflect on the contents of ones own and others minds.??? It is the way we? imagine other people??™s feelings or thoughts. We can create a mental picture of our own emotions and other people??™s feelings. This Theory of Mind enables us to understand the behavior people display is caused by? their? inner feelings, beliefs or intentions, and we can predict some of those behaviors and anticipate them.? Autism children lack this ability and have trouble acting emotionally appropriate in situations that require joy or sadness (Soraya).
Finally, strategies to teach autism and treat the disorder were created. These strategies are broken down into social strategies, behavioral strategies, and emotional strategies. First, there are many types of social strategies like social autopsies, Social Stories?„?, and video modeling. For example, teachers use social autopsies. Which are an in-depth break down of a social situation that defines not only the autistic person??™s role in the situation, it also defines others roles and thoughts about the situation, and also the consequences of each action (Autism & Social Skills). In addition, Social Stories?„? are used. These stories are used to show proper social protocol in an easily understandable way. These stories are not meant to change a student??™s behavior, but instead encourage autistic students to use proper social skills. These stories should be written in a positive tone to encourage learning (Gray). Video modeling is also used to diagram social situations. Video modeling is the use of a movie to instruct an autism child how to handle a particular situation. These videos often contain two scenarios; one scenario depicts inappropriate behavior in that situation and the other scenario depicts proper and expected behavior in the situation. This is useful because it allows the teacher to interact with the student during the video (MNicoleM).
Next, behavioral teaching strategies were created as well. These include behavioral therapy, the Incredible 5 Point Scale, and visual schedules. First, behavioral therapy is a new practice. It involves carefully observing a child in order to understand behavior. Understood behaviors can be modified to add stimulation to areas where the child lacks stimulation. Some of the data collected includes the environment and daily activities. The behavior therapy program then determines which method of reinforcement would be most helpful to the child by diagnosing the severity of the disorder (Mayo Clinic Staff). In addition to behavior therapy, teachers use the Incredible 5 Point Scale. This is a teaching technique that demonstrates correct behavior at different level of emotional stress. This scale has five levels with one being calm and acceptable behavior, two being slightly more agitated, and continuing up the scale. Five is emotionally wrung out and discusses removing the child from the situation (Buron 1-3). Also, visual schedules are effective tools for autism students. Visual Schedules allow the student to see the day??™s activities, and the teacher can discuss proper behavior for each setting and event (Hume, Ph. D.). Additionally, first-then boards are very useful. First-then boards are used to display two activities. The first activity is something the child does not want to do, and the second is something the child does want to do. For example, the ???first??? box could represent homework, and the ???then??? box could represent video games or some other desired activity. These boxes are used to show that completion of an undesirable task is rewarded with a desirable activity (Loring).
Lastly, emotional teaching strategies have been developed. These include stress management tools, Zones of Regulation and the Superflex Curriculum. For instance, teachers often give an emotionally stressed autism student a stress ball or some form of toy; these tools also include but are not limited to: sensory toys, light covers to reduce florescent glare or sunglasses and noise cancelling headphones (Tulleman). Equally important to stress reducing tools are zones of regulation. The Zones of Regulation are a classification system that is given to autism students to help them better express their emotions. The zones are comparable to traffic signs because they have four colors. Green is calm. Green kids are focused, happy and should remain in the classroom. Yellow is heightened alertness and emotions, but they are still in control. Children should stay in the classroom, but they could be removed. Red represents an intensely emotional state. An autistic person might be feeling rage, devastation or terror. The child should be removed from the class room setting. Blue represents a very low state of arousal; these feelings include sadness, sickness, or being tired (Kuypers 9). Additionally, special education teachers use the Superflex Curriculum?„?. This curriculum uses the animated character of a superhero named Superflex in his fight against the villains Rock Brain, Brain Eater, Body Snatcher, the Destroyer of Fun, Un-Wonderer, Space Invader, Glass Man, Grump-Grumpaniny, Topic Twister Meister, Wasfunnyonce, Energy Hare-y, One-sided Sid, Worry Wall, and Mean Jean. Each of the villain characters represents an undesirable behavior and the accompanying emotion. Lack of flexibility is often the cause of these behaviors, which is the reason for the implementation of Superflex, the superhero to fight the villains (Madrigal 10-12).
In 1994, Dr. Hans Asperger studied four cases of a condition that eventually was named after him, Asperger??™s Syndrome. Asperger??™s research proved that autism existed on a spectrum, and not as a static condition. However, common behaviors exist throughout all levels of the autism spectrum. Autism has many possible causes, many effects, and many different forms of teaching options.
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Gray, Carol, dir.? Carol Gray: What are Social Stories(TM). 2009. Film. 15 Feb 2013.
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Kim, Jonah, Tony Wigram, and Christian Gold.? Emotional, motivational and interpersonal responsiveness of children with autism in improvisational music therapy. 13. SAGE Publications, 2009. 391. Web.
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I. Introduction- Autism has many possible causes, many effects, and many different forms of teaching options
II. Causes of autism
2. Non-nurturing mother
B. Possible but unproven
5. Environmental factors
6. Trouble communicating
7. Trouble making friends
10. Unusual playtime habits
11. Subdued emotional response
12. Lack of theory of mind
IV. Teaching/ treatment
13. Social autopsies
14. Social Stories?„?
15. Video modeling
16. Behavior therapy
17. Incredible 5 pt. scale
18. Visual schedules
19. First-then boards
20. Stress management tools
21. Zones of regulation
V. Conclusion- Autism has many possible causes, many effects, and many different forms of teaching options