Although the exact cause of all forms of autism remains unknown, scientists agree that the disorder involves varying degrees of abnormal brain development that leads to physical, behavioral and communicative abnormalities. The disorder is most commonly diagnosed in the early years of life and is characterized by abnormal social interaction, abnormal response to environmental stimuli, and abnormal responses to pain, infection or physical injury. In patients with autism, diagnostic imaging of the brain reveals enlargement of certain areas of the brain with an abnormally high number of nerve cells (neurons) in other areas. Sometimes the neurons have increased protein myelin covering which increases electrical impulse conduction to faster than normal speeds.
Symptoms of Autism
The signs and symptoms of autism depend on the regions of the brain that are affected and the degree to which the abnormalities exist. There are various degrees of disability that exist within the spectrum of autistic disorders that range from very few detectable disabilities to obvious signs and symptoms of the disorder. Some individuals do not speak while others possess a vocabulary of very few words. Other patients only grunt, shriek or cry when trying to communicate their needs. Some forms of autism result in very aggressive or violent behavior at times. In addition, gastrointestinal disturbances and overgrowth of intestinal yeasts are also common and create a heightened level of discomfort for patients with autism. Other signs and symptoms include difficulty walking, repetitive body movement, or repetitive verbal noise (echolalia).
Treating Autism or Treatment of Autism
Treatment of autism is dependent upon the degree of disability that is present. The goal is to improve the patient’s level of behavioral, physical and communicative functioning to the highest level possible for the individual. Some patients with autism may live independently and hold down jobs while others may never be capable of living without assistance. Each case of autism is uniquely different from the next which requires a plan of care that is highly individualized for each unique patient. Treatment may or may not include medications, behavioral therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and dietary consultation. Many parents and or caregivers of individuals with autism spend valuable time trying both traditional methods of treatment as well as any alternatives that may improve their loved ones level of functioning. Many parents have reported significant improvement in behavioral functioning and decreases in violent behavior with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). HBOT significantly increases the amount of oxygen available in blood plasma delivered to the brain. The increased availability of oxygen creates an environment capable of improving cognitive functioning and alertness. In addition, it is widely known that HBOT has the ability to stimulate new blood cell growth (angiogenesis) and increase the number of connections between vital nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.