Autism Spectum Disorders Definition

There have been many medical advancements through research and technology. Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions when it comes to those who a neurotypical and those who are atypical, particularly younger individuals who have been diagnosed with a developmental disability. Throughout this paper, I will be using past findings and research to define Autism Spectrum Disorders, contrast milestones that neurotypical children and children with autism, and mention a few options for families who have a child with this disorder.

Developmental psychology is one of many branches, in which there are many different definitions, however a similar tenet. Through the different developmental theories, it is agreeable that the majority of everyone that development consists of a series of changes that results on interactions that vary between biological and environmental factors (Whitley, 2009). The first few years of children’s learning and development are crucial. For neurotypical children, what are the developmental milestones and timeline?

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According to Wallace (2018), the term developmental disability is used to describe multiple disorders that can affect different domains of a child life such as their cognitive, language, and behavioral functioning. Specifically, Autism Spectrum Disorders are disabilities that can cause challenges with social and communication that vary with functioning levels (Wallace, 2018). This paper focuses on neurological development disorder called Autism. Autism can negatively affect a child’s ability to communicate and interact socially. Those who have been diagnosed with Autism could show trouble in different areas, including emotion. For instance, children with Autism will not be able to communicate whether they are sad, mad, happy, etc (Wallace, 2018).

Developmental Milestone

The developmental milestone has been established in different domains, such as fine and gross motor, problem-solving, social, and language (Scharf, Scharf & Stroustrup, 2016). During the first month of birth, the infant starts the attachment and security phase. Between six and eight weeks, the infant should be able to make appropriate responses such as cooing. At the age of four months, the infant will reach the milestones of rolling back and forth, shake objects and reach for things as well. When five and six months roll around, infants should be able to sit up, feed themselves with easy food, and become more aware of strangers. By nine months the infant should be very mobile and active when playtime and socializing (Schard, Scharf & Stroustrup, 2016).

A child can have delays in all ranges, which is own as global delay, which is defined as having delays in all areas of development. Those who show a delay in the developmental area does vary based on the individual. During the neonatal period of an infant, the delay might show lack of responding to loud sounds or the indifference between the infant and caregiver. An infant will show a delay around four months that has the possibility of being unable to make appropriate sounds, inability to roll. Those infants who are around the age of 6 months might not be able to smile, laugh, or express emotions with caregivers. At nine months, the infant will still not be able to be active and mobile and will show a disinterest with other babies their age (Scharf, Scharf & Stroustrup, 2016). Those infants who may have a delay may not be able to respond to loud sounds during the neonatal period.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2011), some few developmental delays include language delay, loss of speech, reduced responsiveness of expressions, rejection of cuddles, and absent awareness of personal space or interest with peer socialization. Those who have delays also tend to have repetitive behavior. Children like to have a daily schedule and tend to be very distraught if something messes up their schedule (Wallace 2018).

Imitation is also a very crucial component of development during the first years of life. During the second year, imitation of sounds, gestures, and actions should increase as part of the process of learning about the world and negotiating social relationships. One study compared Autism Spectrum Disorders and development which showed that those who have delays in imitation might suggest something that could lead to social or communication deficits (Young, Rogers, Hutman, Rozga, Sigmanv & Ozonoff, 2011). However, even though there is some consistency with these results from research it is still unclear on whether these developmental symptoms can be reliably diagnosed due to the young age of the participants.

Red Flags

A con to a developmental delay includes worry from parents. There are many reasons as to why a child could have delays in the developmental area. Children do not reach milestones at the exact same age as other children. Everyone varies when it comes to developments. Research has mentioned some “red flags” that is a reason for concern. These concerns can not only come from children but also from the parents as well.

Previous data has shown that those caregivers who are unable to recognize infants cues, struggling with a disorder of their own, or decrease in opportunities for their child to play and learn attribute red flags for developmental delays of their children (Scharf, Scharf & Stroustrup, 2016). There are many different reasons as to why an individual might show developmental delays. Past research has shown that prematurity, malformations in the cerebral area, chromosomal disorders, infections, and other diseases might be contributed to developmental delays (Premature infants are the leading cause of neurodevelopmental disabilities in children. Research supports this by stating those infants who are born prematurely have a significantly higher risk of behavioral and learning delays when compared to infants who make are born full term ( Scharf, Scharf & Stroustrup, 2016). These delays that are seen in premature infants include cognition, language, and social fields. There studies that have shown that preterm infants are one of the leading causes of neurodevelopmental disabilities in children. When compared to those who are carried full-term, there are significantly increased risk of behavior disorders and learning (Scharf, Scharf & Stroustrup 2016).

Diagnostics and Factors

Autism is considered to be among the most heritable neuropsychiatric disorder. A study done in Denmark, Fin-land with twins found higher concordance for monozygotic twins than for dizygotic twin and estimated a heritability of greater than ninety percent for Autism. The concordance rates were higher when Autism Spectrum Disorder was considered in addition to the strict diagnosis of Autism. However, even though there were high heritability estimates, identification of the genes responsible for the disorder remains elusive. Also, there has been data that has supported chromosomal structural alterations, such as duplications or deletions of chromosomes that have been identified in three to five percent of autism subjects (Brkanas, Rasking & King, 2018).

There are two major theorists in developmental psychology. Piaget and Vygotsky are both highly influential. Piaget’s theory uses four stages of development, while Vygotsky’s theory focuses more on human interaction as a way of development (Smith, 2003). Both have had an impact on today’s developmental fundamentals. The learning process and social life are known to impact a child developmental stages.

As stated earlier, there have been many advancements in the medical world. Comparing to just twenty years ago, there are many tools that can be used for screening which is more beneficial to rapidly identify individuals for further evaluation. Families have the option to have their child screened. What is screening? According to Wallace (2018), screening is defined as the administration of a standardized tool that will help is a diagnostic evaluation to determine if that child has a developmental disorder. Even though it is the parents final choice on whether they make the decision to allow their child to be screen early, if the parents say ‘yes’ to screening and their child has an identified “positive” for a disorder they make that decisions to have a clearer diagnosis by using more comprehensive history, testing, and examinations (Scharf, Scharf & Stroustrup, 2016) . The earlier delays are detected the more time for medical professionals to be able to provide intervention services. Early screening for Autism is now becoming a standard clinical practice, so for those who decide to opt into these early screenings, can being earlier interventions and treatments.

The standard for diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder is based on clinical history and patient observation performed by trained clinicians.In today’s time, there are many kinds of services that are available for those individuals who show developmental delays. There are new technological discoveries in the genetics of autism that are allowing medical professionals to look into different approaches for diagnosis and treatment. With children who show delays, there is a range of domains that might be affected by this delay. For example, domains in social, cognition, or motor skills will be affected and render the ability to play with other kids, communication impairment, etc. (Scharf, Scharf & Stroustrup, 2016). Tools such as the Denver Developmental Screening Test, Ages & Stages Questionnaires, and the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers are used by clinicians, each test used for specific assessments (Scharf, Scharf & Stroustrup, 2016). There are also other diagnostic tools that can be used by trained clinicians. These structured diagnostic tools are the Autism Diagnostic Interview and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (Brkanas, Raskind & King, 2008).

Children who do exhibit red flags are usually referred to as therapy. For example, those who show language delays can be sent to therapists that focus on speech and language such as speech pathologists. There are also options for children who show delays but have no known history of disorders can be referred to a genetic specialist to run different assessment and genetic testing (Scharf, Scharf & Stroustrup, 2016). Basic goals for intervention services are to enhance the child’s current development trajectory and reduce the potential for long-term disability. Past data has shown that those children who do receive early intervention are developing better than those who do not receive early intervention services, which showed improvement in cognition, social interaction, and communication skills (Wallace, 2018).

Conclusion

There are new technological discoveries in the genetics of Autism that are enabling different approaches to the diagnosis and treatment. Being able to fully emerge and understand the role of genetics, the approach to Autism will be altered forever.

Autism is such a complex disorder that that with any of the still-emerging understanding of the different roles of genetic, environmental, and social domains that there will continue to undoubtedly affect diagnostic and treatment approaches. However, it is important to remember that although there are milestones that are used to determine developmental growth, if an individual does not meet that age-appropriate milestone that does not mean that they for certainty have a disability, the individual could easily be contributed to late development.

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