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Autism: Quick Facts

Autism is:
  • a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication, and causes restricted and repetitive behavior, all starting before a child is three years
  • a brain disorder that is associated with a range of developmental problems, mainly in communication and social interaction
  • a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills
  • a developmental disability of the brain, much like dyslexia, mental retardation, or attention deficit disorder
  • a developmental disability that affects a person's verbal and non-verbal communication, understanding of language, and socialization with peers
  • a developmental disorder which is being diagnosed much more frequently today than it was ten years ago
  • a lifelong, neurological disorder that significantly affects how a person perceives the world, interacts with other people, and communicates
  • a neurological condition which people are usually born with
  • a pervasive developmental disorder, which means that for most of those afflicted, autism is lifelong
  • a severe developmental disorder that begins at birth or within the first two-and-a-half years of life
  • at least four times more common in boys than in girls
  • considered a FINAL COMMON PATHWAY because research suggests that there are several factors and conditions which may result in autism
  • equally distributed among all of the social classes and also among ethnic groups, racial groups and nationalities
  • four times more prevalent in boys than in girls and knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries
  • frequently referred to as a "spectrum disorder," meaning that someone can be afflicted severely or mildly, or to any degree in between
  • likely to be linked to several genes
  • marked by serious difficulties in interacting and communicating with other people
  • more common than childhood cancer, cystic fibrosis, and multiple sclerosis combined
  • much more common in people with certain genetic, chromosomal, and metabolic disorders, such as fragile X syndrome (an inherited form of mental retardation whose name refers to a damaged and fragile-looking X chromosome), phenylketonuria (an inherited condition in which the body lacks the enzyme needed to process the amino acid phenylalanine, leading to mental retardation) and tuberous sclerosis (a rare genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to grow throughout the body and brain)
  • not “a fate worse than death”
  • not a mental illness
  • not a psychosis or lack of reality contact
  • not the result of poor parenting
  • now diagnosed in 1 out of 150 American children, and some people believe the numbers may be under-reported
  • one of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)
  • one of a number of possible outcomes for children with this genetic predisposition for communication or learning problems
  • one of five disorders that falls under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), a category of neurological disorders characterized by “severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development
  • referred to as a spectrum disorder because it ranges in severity across a wide range of conditions, like the colors of a rainbow
  • the most severe of the developmental disabilities with an incidence of approximately 1 per 1000 live births
  • thought by the scientific community to be of genetic origin

More facts:
  • Children with autism are not unruly or spoiled kids who just have a behavior problem.
  • The vast majority of persons with autism are not savants, like the character portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie.
  • Children with autism are not without feelings and emotions. Furthermore, no known psychological factors in the development of the child have been shown to cause autism.
  • It used to be thought that autism is just a fate that you accept.
  • According to the Department of Education and other governmental agencies, autism is growing at a startling rate of 10-17 percent per year. And although the overall incidence of autism is consistent around the globe, it is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls.
  • Most experts will say that autism is probably caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
  • One aspect of autism is that it is like being in perpetual culture shock, no matter where the autistic person goes or how long the autistic person stays.
  • Exactly what causes autism is still unknown.
  • Although a single specific cause of autism is not known, current research links autism to biological or neurological differences in the brain.
  • Although autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors, children and adults can exhibit any combination of the behaviors in any degree of severity.
  • It is important to remember that every person with autism is an individual.

Long-Term Side-Effects of Seroquel and Concerta

"My son with Asperger's is currently on Seroquel and Concerta. I would like to know the long-term side effects of these medications."

Just as a precursor to this question (as it covers medication), I need to point out that I am not a doctor or medically trained individual and any information in this article is for information purposes only. You must seek appropriate medical advice from an approved health care practitioner for medical diagnosis and treatment.

O.K., boring legal jargon out of the way, so let’s get on with the article …

Seroquel is an antipsychotic medication that changes the chemical activity within the brain. It treats the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (manic depression), which are psychotic disorders. Be aware that the following is a comprehensive list of possible reactions to Seroquel. It is rare that most or all of these symptoms will occur.

As with most other medications, there are side effects when taking Seroquel. This medication might cause high blood sugar, diabetes, and suicidal thoughts. Also, Seroquel might cause impairment of thoughts or reactions to external events, and it is not recommended to take Seroquel if you are going to operate a motor vehicle. Another side effect of Seroquel includes adverse reactions if alcohol is consumed.

Please be careful if you are also taking medicine for colds/allergies, sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, or antidepressants. You can become sleepy if Seroquel interacts with these medications. You will need to contact an emergency medical facility if the following reactions occur: difficulty breathing, hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. Call your doctor at once if you have any new or worse symptoms such as: mood or behaviour changes, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, or if you feel impulsive, irritable, agitated, hostile, aggressive, restless, hyperactive (mentally or physically), more depressed, or have thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself.

Concerta is widely known to be a medication that treats Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). While Concerta offers a number of advantages over pre-existing ADHD medications, it has side effects that you should know about.

Concerta is taken once a day because it is a timed-release medication. It comes in capsule form, and it has an outer coating of medication that quickly dissolves when swallowed. The medicinal effect of Concerta lasts twelve hours, and the following need to be considered when taking this medication:
  • It should be taken in the morning hours. If a dose is skipped, wait until the following day; otherwise, your sleep/wake cycle will be affected.
  • A dose of Concerta cannot be adjusted. Any change in milligrams must be done with a new prescription. 
  • A Concerta capsule cannot be mixed with food; this will prevent the proper release of the medication.
  • Concerta is not recommended for people with digestive problems.

A comprehensive list of Concerta side effects includes: abdominal pain aggravation, aggression, anxiety, depression, hostility, insomnia and prolonged sleepiness, loss of appetite, increased coughing, nervousness, sadness, drug dependence, dizziness, headache, tics, sinusitis, upper respiratory tract infection, vomiting, allergic reactions, increased blood pressure, and psychosis.

Concerta is not recommended for children under the age of six. Also, Concerta may be habit forming.

The Parenting Aspergers Resource Guide: A Complete Resource Guide For Parents Who Have Children Diagnosed With Aspergers Syndrome

Best Comments:

Anonymous said...
I would like to add something to this as well...our son (4 yrs old, high functioning Aspergers) tried Concerta for the first time yesterday...and tho we were warned about possible "letdown" effects; when the medication is done after the 12 hrs, usually starting at 10-11 hrs...It was a nightmare! Now NOT all kids are going to experience these issues, however if your dr has not warned you, please be aware. Needless to say, this med is a no-go for our son :-/ I wish everyone luck, as this med has done wonders for some...just not our little Aspie.

Anonymous said...
I believe there CAN BE some serious long term affects of seroquel, but they are rare. Seroquel is very sedating...which may be something your looking for is sleep is an issue. Have you tried risperdal? Or abilify? Abilify works great for my aspie and little to no side affects. Concerta was a nightmare for us as were all stimulants. Abilify has helped slow him down enough that he can focus alot better. But I know of no long term affect from concerta.

Anonymous said...
We do ambilify and rispidone with our high aspie 13 year old. Works great but we've been having to give him double the dose of rispidone when he has an evening event like scouts or soccer. The only side effect is weight gain and sometimes trouble sleeping. But we are happy with the results overall.

Anonymous said...
My 12 year old aspie boy (also diagnosed with O.D.D. and O.C.D.) is currently on valproic acid. He has tried concerta in the past -when he was increased his anxiety, caused him to be overly focused on what he was already worried or obsessed about, and paranoid (almost hallucinating). Tried seroquel around age 9...caused rapid weight gain and sedative...without really addressing his symptoms effectively. We have also tried him on risperdal (caused him to be more obsessive, agitated); clomipramine, zoloft, dexadrine (stimulant kept him awake all night) name a few. We have never found something that is extremely effective at addressing his main symptoms. If anyone has any suggestions of what has worked with their child I would appreciate your input. The main symptoms we would like to alleviate are anxiety (school and social), obsessions (extreme preoccupation with body image, hair, face, etc) depression, without weight gain or serious side effects. Thank you.

Anonymous said...
My 5 yr old who has only ADHD takes concerta and srtaterra. He does fine on those two. My 7 yr old Aspie takes straterra for his ADHD and rispadol. No problems.

Anonymous said...
My 9 year old son has been on Concerta XL for a year now. The only side affect is loss of appitite - which we were warned about. It isn't too much of a problem as he eats in the evening and when he has a day off it.

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ASD and Anxiety Overload

"What can I do as a parent to help my Asperger's child to be less anxious about his upcoming trip to the zoo? His 5th grade class will be going on this field trip next week, and he is very nervous about it."

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and anxiety go hand-in-hand. It affects a child’s ability to communicate with others or to understand the world around him, and that’s bound to cause anxiety and panic sometimes. Anxiety becomes even worse when there is a change in the ASD child’s routine. Even positive and “fun” changes, like a school field trip or a visit to the zoo, can increase anxiety and aggressive behaviors. The renowned autism expert Tony Atwood is fond of putting it this way: “Autism is anxiety looking for a target.”

For parents, the best course of action is to anticipate upcoming changes and help your child prepare for them. Many parents find it helpful to use stories and pictures to prepare children for impending disruptions. If it’s a field trip to the zoo, for example, use pictures to show your child what he’ll see at the zoo, what the zoo will be like, and what sort of things to expect. Do this each day for three or four days prior to the trip. That way, when the trip actually happens, the child won’t be entirely out of his element, but will already understand and appreciate some of what will be happening.

Other changes in the routine are less enjoyable but still necessary. Getting a new teacher can be traumatic, as can moving to a new house. If at all possible, try to spread out the major changes. If you move to a new house, try to do it during the summer, so that your child won’t have to deal with the added anxiety of getting a new school and new teacher mid-year.

You can also introduce your child to the concept of “change” in a positive way by practicing with non-negative things. For example, just for practice, give him a little extra TV time instead of homework time one night, to show that changes in the routine can often be fun and good. Then practice with a neutral change (homework after dinner instead of before dinner), then with a negative one (changing play time into chore time). This process can help your child grow accustomed to the idea of change and learn to adapt without becoming anxious.

For continual, ongoing anxiety, many parents have begun using anti-anxiety medications for their ASD children. Usually, the medications are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and are also used for obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression. Prozac, Luvox, Zoloft and Anafranil are all common for anxiety in children with ASD.

All children with ASD are different. You and your doctor should monitor your child’s progress very closely, using the lowest dose of medication possible, to see what improvements it makes and whether there are any adverse reactions.

Medication should be the last resort for ASD, not the first one. There are a number of natural remedies available if you don’t want to go down the drug route. But try behavioral and dietary modifications first, to see what improvements can be made naturally.

The Parenting Autism Resource Guide: A Complete Resource Guide For Parents Who Have Children Diagnosed With Autism

Dealing With Your Child's Frustrations

"I would like ideas on how to deal with my Aspergers son’s frustrations. He will either dig his heels in and refuse to do what he is supposed to do, or he shuts down and then we have a time away so he can get himself together to discuss the problem. It seems he works himself up over things that are not that big a deal."

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My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content