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‘Explaining the Enigma,’ by Utah Faith is a great book, which discusses issues about autism. In his book, he explains that autism is a childhood disorder. Categorically, he points out that autism is a developmental disorder. Autism signs are not easily recognized until much later as it slowly affects the mental development of the growing child. What is interesting enough is that the author found out that autism affects the development of the child and also development affects autism.
Autism is a complication of neural development which is characterized by poor social interaction and communication usually restricted by repetitive behavior. The signs usually begin when the child is almost three years old. Autism generally affects processing of information in the brain by adversely changing how the nerve cells and synapses are connected. The disorder is one of the recognized complications in the autism spectrum. These complications include Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise stated. Autism is genetically inherited. Sometimes autism is associated with birth defects disorders.
According to the author of this book, parents usually do not notice the signs until the child is three years old. The signs usually develop gradually as the child grows and develops. Most children grow well at first and later show the signs of autism. The behavioral and cognitive intervention will help the child regain his or her social and communication skills. The author continues to explain that most children are not able to live independently with the condition. Various opinions indicate that most people see autism as a difference and not a disorder.
The book continues to espouse or expose the characteristics, causes, diagnosis, and screening of the disorder. The author points out that autism is a very complicated neurodevelopmental disorder. It first appears during infancy and becomes full blown when the child has attained the age of three years. The symptoms include- impairment in communication, restricted interests, impairments in socialization and repetitive behavior. The child usually flaps his or her hand, say certain words severally, have temper tantrums and play with just one toy. The author further narrates that the individual symptoms of autism can occur in the entire population.
The book uses a young child called Peter to bring out the causes and effects of autism. As the story unfolds, we get to know that Peter started to have academic problems (always performing poorly in class), doing jigsaw puzzle downwards and his mother could not understand what could have happened to her gifted child. As Peter grows, he starts making excellent academic progress. Besides doing well in swimming, he knew all classical music off-head. However, after a visit to a museum, he changed. Generally, the author views Peter as exceptional as there are other children with autism, who cannot even speak.
The author narrates in chapter 2 how autism was discovered by two scientists- Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger in 1943. These two researchers, working independently, found out that there are some cases of children with strange characteristics and they later termed those children as ‘autistic.’ They found out that those children were unable to relate well with their friends. The chapter explains comprehensively how both researchers described the situation.
The book also describes some of the diagnostic criteria used today. Various researchers have decided to use some behavioral criteria for diagnosing autism. The criteria include the following. First, there must be a clear qualitative impairment in peculiar social interactions. The behavioral signs in question should include poor use of gestures and eye gaze. Another criterion is that there must be qualitative complication in verbal and non-verbal ways of communication with respect to development. These behavioral signs include lack of speech, prolonged acquisition of language and lack of developed sense of communication styles.
The last criterion that the author describes is that there must be a well-defined restricted assortment of activities or interests, which are required in that developmental stage. The book describes each and every criteria and how it is applicable. - the first criteria being the impairment of the reciprocal social and interpersonal interaction, the second criterion describing the impairments of communication and the last one touching on repetitive disorders such as hand flicking, rocking and scratching.
In page 12, the book describes the difficulty in diagnosing autistic disorders. He explains that in the initial stages of the disorder, it is very difficult to notice it. However, worries begin to pile up as the child gradually develops the signs. Parents should therefore, be informed about the behavioral assessment of their autistic children. The assessments should enable the doctors to establish clinical symptoms of the disorder.
The author stresses that parents should have time to understand the assessment procedure, the reason as to why it is done, the expected results and what should be done. Majority of parents claim that autistic disorders cannot be defined easily. However, problems arise at extreme cases, for example, children with low level of ability to perform some simple tasks and children with severe attention problems.
Diagnosis of autism can be improved by trying to understand the signs as early as possible. The author of this book explains that behavioral diagnosis is not reliable when the behavior pattern is limited, for example in young babies. Some autistic disorders have physical signs and therefore, diagnosis is much easier. Therefore, children should be screened at an early age of 18 months. Screening will enable the doctor to recognize false signs. This process depends on mind-blindness theory. The theory proposes that the intuitive capability to understand that people have minds is the missing thing in autism.
The author of the book states clearly that autistic children can be treated. What the parents need to know is to understand the signs that their children are suffering from autism as early as possible. The treatment patters of autistic children include communication and behavior therapies and some medications to reduce the symptoms.
Chapter two of this book entitled ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ which talks of death-like sleep, is common to most autistic people. Those living with autism see the child as near yet so far, and present yet remote. The author describes some myths related to autism in detail. He writes that these myths never just came out of the blue but they somehow trace their existence to the real life situation of autism. The experiences of autism with a lot of poorly understood puzzles have great significance for people who have already experienced it. In ancient Middle East, the writer indicates, autistic characteristics were used in shaping religious and political objects of conduct.
The same chapter talks about ‘Old Fools of Russia.’ This was brought out by Horace W. Dewey, who was a famous Slavonic historian. He was familiar with autism and made known the similarities existing between holy fools Vis a Vis today’s autism diagnosis. All these myths reveal that autism was detested in the society and anyone suffering from it he was seen as being under some spell.
The most important thing to prevent autism issues is to form national epidemiological assessment of all children who have undergone autism diagnosis and have been established to have the disease. This assessment should cover issues like social, familial, neonatal, obstetric, immunization and disease related variables. The data will help to determine if autism conditions are spreading, which external factors might enhance the children’s risk of getting autism and the type of inequalities in existence when it comes to the provision of education health care for all the autistic children.
What needs to be done also is to vaccinate all children against autism. The book has stated clearly in its early chapters that autism is a preventable disease especially if parents notice the initial signs of the disease. When the child is immunized against this disorder, he or she will be able to lead a normal and happy life.
The issue of myths as discussed by this author should not be a cause of alarm to parents. Since it is a clinically preventable disorder, actions should be taken to ensure that autistic children are given medications, behavioral assessments checked on regular basis and clinician’s recommendations about the child’s progress sought. The most interesting thing the author of this book has brought out is that some children, with time, recover from autism. With Peter’s case discussed in chapter one of this book, it is a source of relief to any parent who has a child with autistic complications.