autistic diagnosis –
is an enigma; it is different from other diagnoses. It may take a physician years of research to finally gather the proper evidence, in order for a diagnosis of autism to take place. Parents, generally speaking, suspect long before the diagnosis is given, because they can see that the child may not give them eye contact, or that the child’s communication process has begun to regress, after the first year and a half or so. The average age for diagnoses in the United States is between the age of two and three; that is when symptoms generally make themselves known.
The challenge in the autistic diagnosis is primarily due to the developmental changes a child goes through during the first three years of life. When a child is developing quickly, the nuances of communication and social behavior may elude doctors or even parents who are not specifically on the lookout for autism. The pattern of a child’s development is ever changing, after all — and without a close eye and experience, the onset of autism is almost impossible to detect. Even the slightest social blunder may be that the child just has some odd quirks, and the line between these quirks and minor autism is a very thin one.
Only the judgment of the doctor is the determining factor to label a child autistic. Some autistic children have gone through their entire lives with the label of emotionally disabled or behaviorally challenged.
Many doctors stay away from this label because of the emotional impact on the parents or care providers, and the chance of lawsuits if the label causes adverse reactions later on. There are no medical tests that can be administered that would clearly define autism. The doctor’s opinion is the only thing that will label a child and put them in a category among special needs that hasn’t even really been defined or researched much.
The criterion for autism is determined by a panel of doctors who compare related cases, and find a common symptom. Though the criterion is sketchy at best, right now it is the only way some doctors can comfortably make a diagnosis of autism. Most clinicians and medical personnel use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, to classify autism; the basic guidelines only include the manifestations of communication use and social behavior. Another guideline that is usually diagnosed as “compulsive behavior” is the constant vigilance toward established patterns or norms.
The autistic child will find their comfort zone in a specific path; they will walk around their house or at school. They may be schedule oriented, in which they will follow a specific schedule and will refuse to deviate from it. If a autistic child is made to change their pattern, they will lose control of emotions and behavior. Behavior exhibited could range from uncontrolled anger to verbal confrontation of an unpleasant manner. The need to follow the specific pattern is built into their system, as a way to deal with an ever changing world.
The one thing that the criterion does not cover is the fixation on certain things. Some autistic children can memorize entire books if it is something that they really like. One autistic boy in Wyoming could recite the entire series of Dr. Seuss books. Here is an example of a really smart boy who knows a lot about U.S. History (he has Aspergers which falls within the autism spectrum)