Advances in Understanding Causes of Autism and Effective Interventions
Indu Joshi, Maire Percy, and Ivan Brown
Understanding the aberrant biological mechanisms that underlie autism and its spectrum disorders is an exciting challenge for researchers and clinicians because breakthroughs in our understanding of the primary causes of autism are expected to lead to new approaches for intervention, prevention or even cures. This review will highlight some recent advances in our understanding of the causes of autism and of its treatment, including: · How some forms of autism can actually be prevented · The possibly changing prevalence of autism · Problems in diagnosing autism, particularly in very young children, and how such problems can complicate the interpretation of research results · The many different types of autistic disorders and "double syndromes" that are associated with autistic features · Different biological abnormalities in autism including abnormalities of neurotransmitters, metabolism, the immune system, and brain structure and function · Suspected environmental risk factors for autism · Genetic risk factors for autism · The importance of animal models for autism · Therapeutic approaches in autism including medical, intensive early behavioural, educational, and "alternative" interventions The need for multi-disciplinary teams for clinical assessment and intervention and the plights of individuals with severe autism, especially of older children, adolescents, and adults, are stressed.
Autism was first described in detail in 1943 by Leo Kanner after observing similar behaviour patterns in 11 children. He further noticed a common "extreme aloneness from the beginning of life and an anxiously obsessive desire for the preservation of sameness" (Kanner, 1943, p. 217). He referred to his children as being autistic, a term
coined in 1911 by Eugen Bleuler who used it to refer to a narrowing of relationships to people...