Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders

BabyZone.com, a website for expectant and new parents, has published an article I wrote entitled, "Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders." You can find it by clicking on the link here.

This article is a primer for people such as parents and grandparents who are just learning about autism and who may not know much about the diagnostic criteria doctors and other child development specialists use to tell if a toddler has an autism spectrum disorder. It lays out the criteria for the different places on the autism spectrum while pointing out how difficult this whole process can be for parents:

It's common to hear autism experts say that no two children who receive the diagnosis are exactly alike. One person with autism may not be able to talk, while another will talk a great deal, nonstop, about subjects that interest him intensely. Some people with autism display very high levels of intelligence, while others may have mental retardation.

This lack of black-and-white clarity can be frustrating for parents and family members new to autism who seek to understand what's going on with their very young child and try to assess how this diagnosis will influence not just their child, but everyone in the family.

The article includes one important piece of new information: the American Psychiatric Association, the body that publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which defines autism, plans to update its published definitions in 2011, according to Autism Speaks and this tentative timeline from the association itself. That will be version 5, or DSM-V.

Other links that Autism Bulletin readers may find interesting:

• A preview version of the DSM-IV-TR (version 4, text revision), is available online via Google Books Search website, with some pages missing. Click here.

• The American Academy of Pediatrics paper, "Identification and Evaluation of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders" in the journal Pediatrics, November 2007

• The Centers for Disease Control autism site

• The National Institute of Mental Health autism spectrum topic page

• The M.I.N.D. Institute at the University of California at Davis, a leading research site for early diagnosis of autism

Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism (Basic Books, 2007) by Roy Richard Grinker, an anthropologist and father of a daughter with autism who writes an interesting discussion of Leo Kanner's work. Kanner was among the first doctors to document autistic traits in his patients.

• An interactive timeline charting the history of autism, by Jane Lytel

Also see:

What to Do When Your Child Gets an Autism Diagnosis

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