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Autism Spectrum Disorder Explained

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There is an awful lot of discussion of autism in the news and in schools lately. For the last ten to fifteen years, we have seen a rise in the diagnosis of autism in children. The statistics [1] are certainly bleak: 1 in 110 children has an autism spectrum disorder. No one fully understands this disorder or what causes it. Many things have been suggested: diet, vaccinations, or simply a rise in better diagnosing. The vaccination debate has been very intense in particular, with many parents choosing to forgo vaccines for their infants and babies. No evidence has shown that vaccinating causes autism disorders, but it is certainly understandable to want to protect your child from the overwhelming amount of shots they are expected to receive at such a young age.

Whatever the causes, the fact remains that autism is here and it must be dealt with. Having autism can make learning and socializing very difficult for a child. If you have a child with autism or you suspect one of your children may be autistic, there are many things you can do to help them be happier and more successful. And, if you are homeschooling, your child’s chances of success depend even more on you and what you do on a daily basis.

What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder?

The disorder uses the word spectrum for a very good reason. People with autism have vastly different levels of abilities and disabilities. The general symptoms of the disorder are the same, but the degrees to which they affect a person with autism are very different. Some children are at one end of the spectrum, with minimal symptoms and fully able to learn and socialize with other non-autistic children. At the other end are children who may not even speak or make eye contact because their symptoms are so severe. And other autistic children fit in different places in between.

Besides being a spectrum, autism is a developmental disability that causes sufferers to have difficulty communicating with others. Besides typical autism, the spectrum includes Asperger’s syndrome and atypical autism.

What are the Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

There are three main categories of symptoms seen in those with an autism spectrum disorder:

These symptoms are the classic signs of autism. Someone with Asperger’s syndrome may have similar symptoms, but with less severity. They often come across as functional, but slightly awkward. Those with atypical autism, also called pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified, may show some, but not all of the signs of autism. The symptoms are usually milder than in a case of autism.

Can Autism Be Treated?

There is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, but there is much research going into different types of treatments. There are several current treatments in use that are considered safe. Every child is different, and some are effective for some children but not for others.

Another treatment that is not necessarily approved by health professionals is a diet change. Preliminary research suggests a link between autism symptoms and gluten and casein. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and some other grains and casein is a protein found in milk. Evidence is far from conclusive, but many parents of autistic children claim that they see drastic improvements in symptoms when they remove these from the diet.

How Do Children with Autism Learn?

Because they struggle to communicate, take cues, and deal with change, learning in a traditional setting can be very difficult for an autistic child. While public schools do their best to offer special services for autistic children, they are not always successful at educating them well. If you are homeschooling an autistic child, you have a great opportunity to try different techniques and to give your child the best possible education. However, it isn’t easy, especially if you have other children at home. Here are some things to keep in mind for homeschooling an autistic child.

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