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Archive for May, 2008

Can a Child Display Autistic Traits and Still Not Be Autistic?

Posted in Health & Fitness on May 30th, 2008

With it featuring so heavily in the media (and rightly so) a fear that many parents hold is the possibility that their child or children may be diagnosed with autism.  However, before jumping to conclusions should you observe some symptoms or traits of autism in your child, it is important to get a professional diagnosis and to look carefully into that diagnosis to make certain that there isn’t something else causing the autistic behaviors to occur.  There are a number of other health problems and disorders that are commonly misinterpreted and misdiagnosed as autism.

Misdiagnosis of autism can occur among the various autism spectrum disorders, or it can be connected to a completely unrelated condition. Parents should make sure to share all observations and considerations with the child’s doctor so that possible alternate diagnoses the appropriate attention.

There are five conditions within the autism spectrum, and each of them can easily be mistaken for another.  These are:

1. Rett’s Syndrome – this is a condition found only in girls which was discovered back in 1966.  It is currently believed by scientists that this is not an inherited condition, but is the result of a random genetic mutation.  Symptoms of Rett’s Syndrome do not become apparent in babies until 6 to 18 months of age.  When Rett’s Syndrome starts to become apparent, the development of the baby begins to slow and their heads no longer grow in a normal way.  Normal speech does not develop and repetitive hand movements, unusual walking patterns, and torso shaking begin.  Children with Rett’s Syndrome also frequently experience seizures, breathing problems, rigid muscles, retarded growth, and other health issues.

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2. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder – this disorder almost always occurs in boys, and is extremely rare.  Until the age of about 42 months, the child appears to be normal, but a dramatic linguistic and social skill loss then occurs.  The child may also start experiencing seizures and lose bladder and bowel control.  Typically, these children experience low intellectual development.  CDD is the easiest of the autism spectrum disorders for doctors to diagnose.

3. Autism – Autism itself is often referred to as Classic Autism, Kanner’s Autism, or Early Infantile Autism.  Until its recognition in the 1940’s, children with autism had been diagnosed as emotionally disturbed or mentally retarded.  Autistic children show many different kinds of symptoms that also occur in other physical and mental disorders, making it easy to misdiagnose.  Among them are issues with sensory integration and information processing, leading to a series of different kinds of behaviors.

4. Asperger’s Syndrome – Asperger’s Syndrome children are frequently mistaken for children with high-functioning autism.    The syndrome does not typically present itself until after three years of age, as these children tend not to show any issues with language acquisition and use.  Instead, they commonly form extreme interests in narrow subjects, and are often known for frequent (though not universal) ability to recite full book texts or movie lines, as well as a seemingly endless line of trivial facts. Some autism-like traits may present themselves, such as the desire for a strict routine, a struggle with social interactions and communication, and an inclination toward repetitive behaviors.  Some also struggle with vocal control.

5. Pervasive Development Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified) – PDD/NOS symptoms are difficult to classify.  This portion of the autism spectrum is essentially used as a “catch-all” diagnosis for children who present symptoms of autism that cannot be contained by the other four autism spectrum disorders.

Beyond the autism spectrum disorder, other disorders and health problems that can often cause children to display autistic traits – though they don’t actually have autism – are:

- Deafness or hearing loss – children who have a difficulty hearing may have impaired social responses, causing them to behave in ways similar to some autistic behaviors.

- Schizophrenia – though some symptoms of this disorder are similar to those of autism, schizophrenia normally presents much later in life than autism.

- Language delay, language disorder, or speech delay – children with linguistic disorders and delays can experience social impairments as a result of their inability to express themselves.

- Developmental delay or mental retardation – behaviors of developmentally delayed or mentally retarded children frequently mimic those of autistic children, but for completely different reasons.  Before the discovery of autism as a disorder many autistic children were regarded as mentally retarded.

As there are so many different symptoms of autism and the disorder never presents the same way from person to person, it is easy to misdiagnose disorders both inside and outside the spectrum as being autism.  This is especially prevalent among the various autism spectrum disorders.

Have a look at the following autism checklist for a list of typical autism symptoms to look out for.

Grab your free copy of Rachel Evans’ brand new Autism Newsletter - Overflowing with easy to implement methods to help you and your family find out about diagnosing autism and for a quick and easy autism checklist please visit The Essential Guide To Autism.

What is the Difference Between Apraxia and Autism?

Posted in Health & Fitness on May 5th, 2008

Apraxia and autism are two entirely different neurological disorders which can occur in a child independently of one another, or together in the same child.  While autism’s symptoms can impact and impair many different systems, behaviors, and thought patterns, apraxia occurs when the child struggles to plan and carry out voluntary physical movements. 

In terms of gross motor skills, apraxia may impact a child’s capabilities to stand up, sit in a chair, or catch a ball and with fine motor skills, a child may not be able to zip up a jacket, button a shirt, write or print, or even point at an object.

Children with apraxia may also struggle to produce sound patterns to make words, or even coordinate the various speech mechanisms to make the individual speech sounds such as the difference between a “g” and a “b” sound, or the hum of an “m” sound.  Even when a sound is modeled, a child with apraxia may not be able to mimic the same sound. 

However, though these symptoms may also cross over into autism, there remain important differences between the two conditions.  For example, when a child has only apraxia it is only the motor functioning and not the social and emotional skills that are impacted, as is often not the case with autism.

Apraxia and autism can become difficult to tell from one another when the child is exhibiting symptoms of verbal apraxia (officially known as oral-motor apraxia).  The reason for this is that children with either condition can be very aware of their struggle to communicate verbally, and therefore they may choose to avoid having to talk by staying away from social situations.  However, in the case of verbal apraxia, if you play with your child and don’t demand speech from him or her, you may find that they begin playing actively and engage others in their play. 

The child usually experiences relief from being able to socialize and have contact with others without being required to talk, which is frustrating for them and can create a fear of failure.  Often, with these children, when they are allowed to select the type of play and are allowed to go without having to speak, the relief and comfort they feel can make them more open to accepting the slow introduction of new sounds and syllables, which may eventually bring about simple words into their favorite games and play. Encouragement to vocalize or verbalize should be gentle in both apraxia and autism, and should be gradual, tailored to the pace of success rather than to a schedule.

In both motor apraxia and autism, children show social interaction problems, but in the case of motor apraxia, this is normally because they are not always capable of performing the physical movements that allows them access to others.  However, motor apraxia won’t usually make a child want to avoid social interaction altogether, such as failing to make eye contact, or specifically moving away from other people. 

It is easy to see why there is so much confusion between apraxia and autism spectrum disorders.  Especially considering children with these conditions can also both exhibit signs of over-reactivity to sensations.   However, there are differences between the two and it is important to speak to your doctor or a specialist if you are unsure.  Your doctor will be able to determine which condition your child may have, or if both are present.

Grab your free copy of Rachel Evans’ brand new Autism Newsletter - Overflowing with easy to implement methods to help you and your family find out about apraxia and autism and for information on levels of autism please visit The Essential Guide To Autism.