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Autism and Associated Healthcare Issues


Autism, a pervasive development disorder that appears early in life and involves a lack of many basic skills is a grave matter of concern in the health care field. The prevalence of Autism among children is high with six in a thousand kids being autistic.

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If diagnosed early such children can be trained to develop social and communication skills and build up the ability of self-care. This is a major issue associated with Autism since many parents fail to recognize the disorder and provide early interventions. This paper attempts to understand Autism as a health care issue by studying deeply its causes, characteristics, conditions, treatment options, and who can live with it. Such an understanding can pave the way to seek remedy for this disorder and will be a solace for many autistic children and their parents.

What is Autism

Autism is a development disorder that manifests as a result of impairment in the brain system or nervous system which is characterized by extreme aloneness, lack of proper communication, and repetitive behavior. Children with autism begin to show these signs before they are three. The problems associated with this disorder are multi-dimensional; it affects the social life and communication skills of children badly and they show behavioral problems such as repetitiveness, resistance to change, ritualistic behavior, and self-injury. Nearly 75% “of children with autism also have some degree of mental retardation.” (Pervasive development disorder, 2009).

Autistic children’s responses to sensations may not be normal. For example, a child who sees a man smiling may not understand that the man is smiling because he is happy. Also, the child’s ability to relate to people or incidents may be minimal. People with autism often repeat some words or phrases. This phenomenon is called echolalia. Autism is called a ‘spectrum disorder’ because the symptoms may vary greatly from mild impairment in social functioning to severe behavioral problems. Boys are affected more by Autism. It is estimated that ‘nearly 80% of those affected by Autism are boys.’ (What is autism, (n.d.)).

Causes of Autism

The root cause of Autism is still unknown. Many believe that Autism has a genetic cause though a specific gene has not yet been identified. Some people think that there is some predisposing factor in the children that trigger Autism. Because we have a very complicated brain, it is hard to identify the precise cause of Autism. It is found that the ‘Autistic children have a problem with some of the cells in the brain and the neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers that connect neurons) especially those associated with communication, emotions, and senses, the cause of which is not fully known. (Autism, 2009).

Some recent studies have pointed to oxytocin, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that is associated with social behavior, playing a major role in Autism. (Arnold, 2009).

It is also believed that a combination of several factors such as food allergy and environmental toxins causes Autism. The notion that Autism is caused by poor parenting is not supported by studies.

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There is no total cure for autism. But if provided with appropriate treatment and education, many autistic children can make some adaptation to their environment and develop accordingly. The better option for children is allowing them to live with their families rather than confining to an institution. There is no standard treatment method for Autism. Hence an individual treatment plan is necessary to meet the needs of a particular child.

A combination of different treatment methods such as behavior modification, occupational therapy, speech therapy, biomedical therapy, and physical therapy is found to be more effective than adopting a particular one. Occupational therapy helps the child to improve self-care and attain some degree of independence. It also teaches some basic skills needed for daily living such as brushing teeth or bathing.

Physical therapy helps him to control his movements. Autistic children often find communication through words very difficult, so providing speech therapy and communication therapy helps them to communicate using pictures, objects, or activities. An important means in the treatment is behavior modification therapy that can be used to treat repetitive or aggressive behavior. Behavior therapy involves ‘giving clear instructions to children, encouraging them through immediate praise and reward, and increasing the complexity of reinforced behavior.’ (Health encyclopedia- diseases and conditions, 2009).

In some cases, medication is also used to treat mood changes, seizures, hyperactive behavior, etc. though these medicines cannot cure Autism as such. Early intervention is very important in the treatment of Autism. Experts believe that if these therapies start as early as possible the long-term outcome would be much better. “Studies have shown that vitamin B, magnesium (improves the effects of vitamin B), and cod liver oil supplements (which contain vitamins A and D) may improve behavior, eye contact, attention span, and learning in autistic patients.” (Autism: Treatment, prognosis, 2009).

Living with Autism

Some people with mild Autism can become independent adults who can live on their own. Community-based rehabilitation can be given to a majority of Autistic patients and this will help them to receive necessary supervision in their adulthood also. But more serious patients always need some help from others. They will want to have lifelong assistance from others. But with the support and understanding of professionals and family members, these people can attain some degree of success in life.


A deeper understanding of Autism as a health care issue would help those people interested in providing solace to suffering a lot. Autism is a growing concern for experts in the field of child health. This attempt to study the problem of Autism will change one’s outlook towards the patients – they are just normal people with Autism.


Autism. (2009). Kids Health. Web.

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Arnold, J. (2009). Recent studies show autism is growing. Ezine Article. Web.

Autism: Treatment, prognosis: Dietary Modifications. (2009). Neurology Channel. Web.

Health encyclopedia- diseases and conditions. (2009). USA Today. Web.

Pervasive development disorder: Autism. (2009). Medicine Net. Web.

What is autism: General information and frequently asked questions by Indian parents. (n.d.). Action for Autism & Open Door. Web.

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