It wasn't news that singer Toni Braxton broke down on The View, since everyone cries on The View! What WAS news was AUTISM, the REASON for Toni's tears...Toni Braxton was crying for her youngest son, who months before had been diagnosed as one of the 1.5 million Americans with autism, a complex and disabling lifelong condition, which affects a person's ability to communicate and relate to people around them. The condition varies from person to person: some people with the condition may also have accompanying learning disabilities, while others have average or above-average intelligence. The behavioral signs of autism are usually noticed by parents in the first few years of a child's life. A wide range of children with autism may also demonstrate signs of other kinds of mental or developmental disabilities. Autism is the most common of five disorders that fall under the umbrella term "Persuasive Developmental Disorders," or PDD. Other forms of PDD include Asperger's Syndrome and Rett Syndrome. People with autism usually display three behaviors specific to the disorder, but the hallmark of autism is impaired social abilities. As early as infancy, an autistic child may shy away from being cuddled or held. Meanwhile, older children may fail to respond to their names, or avoid eye contact. In a similar vein, people with autism tend to have trouble reading faces and responding correctly to social cues.They suffer from what is known as a lack of social or emotional reciprocity. If someone smiles at them, they don't know to necessarily smile in return. The second marker of autism is various problems with communication. In fact, about a third of autistic people never develop enough speech to meet their daily needs. And those who DO speak tend not to do so socially. For example, a child may talk incessantly about a favorite topic, but refuse to engage in conversation. They either do not know what to say, or cannot sustain the flow of conversation. In response to someone saying "I like books!", you might say "I like them too!", while someone with autism may say "I have a dog." The third marker of autism is repetitive behavior or movements. For example, an autistic person may engage in seemingly purposeless movement, like hand flapping or head rolling. Others are resistant to change. They often rigidly follow fixed routines, and find it difficult to deal with unexpected events. For instance, they may obsessively line things up, stack things, and use only the "blue" blocks. Still other children with autism engage in repetitive self-injury, such as biting themselves. Additional-less universal-signs of autism include: intense sensitivity to sound, touch, or other sensory stimulation. A small percentage of autistic children may also have unusual abilities, like memorizing trivia, or a gift for the violin. And for reasons unknown, fully 30-% of autistic people also develop epilepsy, or seizure disorder. Once they understand what autism is, the first question many people ask is, "What causes it?" And although researchers aren't 100% sure, autism is thought to arise from abnormalities in brain structure or function. Right now, it's estimated that about 1 in 150 or 6.6 per 1,000 people are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It's found in far more boys than girls, with a ratio of about 4:1. Because autism and other PDDs seem to run in families, there is likely a genetic component to the disorder as well. "Some researchers are investigating whether environmental factors may play a role. While some activist groups have been concerned about a potential relationship between autism and vaccines containing a compound known as thiomersal, " the current scientific consensus among the FDA, the CDC, and the World Health Organization has rejected any relationship between thiomersal and autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders. Unfortunately, this poorly-understood disorder lacks a cure. Most agree that-while the disorder is lifelong-it can improve with early educational and parental intervention. For more information on autism and the famous people who know about it intimately, check out the other videos in this series.
Changing the Way Autism is Diagnosed?
Changing Perceptions: The Power of Autism
Pets Help Kids with Autism Socialize
Autism Speaks Getting Louder
Autism on the Rise
Autistic People Don't Care What Others Think
Autism Diagnosis Rules Likely to Change
Size and Growth of Babies Offer New Clues Into Autism
Last Updated:December 20, 2012