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Early Detection of Autism May Reduce Severity

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Early Detection of Autism May Reduce Severity

Professor’s comment: The student wrote this paper for English 102: Writing in the Health Sciences. It is a feature article like you find in the New York Times. Notice that she cites her sources the way that journalists do, naming them in the article as though she both read their work and talked with them (but, because she is a student, she also includes a nonjournalistic reference list). This student has risen to the difficult challenge of addressing an educated audience of both critical scientists and non-scientists reading for interest—her article is people-oriented, follows an enticing and engaging structure, and provides new, clear, fascinating detail on a significant topic.

Scientists are gaining a new understanding of how the brains of autistic individuals work. Their discoveries have led many to believe that early intervention may reduce the severity of the disorder.

The brain continues to develop after birth. Therefore, early damage can often be compensated for if another part of the brain takes over the responsibilities of the damaged area. Because the brain’s ability to reorganize itself declines rapidly during the first few years of life, techniques that allow for early detection of autism are critical. Several such diagnostic methods have recently been proposed. Most of these are based on the analysis of videotapes of infants later diagnosed with autism.

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the functions of the brain. Individuals with autism most often have serious problems with social interaction and with communication and imagination, as well as unusual behavior patterns (rituals, preoccupations, and repetitive behaviors).

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Hashimoto, T., M. Tayama, K. Murakawa, and T. Yoshimoto. (1995). Development of the brainstem and cerebellum in autistic patients. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,1, 1-18.

Lex, Carolyn. (February 1, 1999). Interview with a mother of an autistic child.

Osterling, J., and G. Dawson. (1994). Early recognition of children with autism: A study of first birthday home videotapes. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,24, 247-258.

Rasmussen, C. (1999). Sensory Integration. In Center for the Study of Autism.[Online]. Available: http://www.autism.org/si.html [1999, March 8]

Teitelbaum, P., O. Teitelbaum, J. Nye, J. Fryman, and R. Maurer. (1968, November 18). Movement analysis in infancy may be useful for early diagnosis of autism. PNAS [Online]. Available: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/95/23/13982 [1999, March 7].
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