- Understand that autism and schizophrenia were once linked together, but are now seen as separate disorders.
- Grasp that autism involves impaired social interaction, problems with communication and restricted preoccupations and stereotyped behaviors. These children will often have intellectual, adaptive behavior and motor skill deficits.
- Realize that the prevalence rate of autism has increased over the years and the diagnosis is more common in boys, but is unrelated to social class.
- Comprehend that autism is typically a chronic disorder and many are unable to achieve independent living.
- Discover that research on autism indicates that it is related to deficits in theory of mind, central coherence and executive functioning. A number of areas of the brain have also been implicated.
- Accept that many causes of autism have been explored including genetics, prenatal complications, immunization, exposure to viruses and medical conditions.
- Acknowledge that a variety of pervasive developmental disorders have been identified and differentiating each of those disorders from autism is difficult at times. This has led some professionals to consider autism a spectrum disorder with varying degrees of impairment.
- Consider that the assessment of autism involves obtaining, a thorough family and medical history, evaluating intellectual and adaptive functioning, completing behavioral observations, as well as standardized measures of autism.
- Gather that treatment should begin as early as possible and include intensive behavioral interventions to improve language and communication, academic readiness and social functioning. Several comprehensive programs have demonstrated effectiveness.
- Ascertain that schizophrenia differs from autism as the hallmark symptoms are hallucinations, delusions and thought disorder.
- See that the prevalence rate for childhood schizophrenia is quite low, less than 1% of the population and that when schizophrenia does occur in childhood, the onset is typically insidious.
- Discern that many neurological abnormalities have been noted in schizophrenia and that many are related to brain connectivity.
- Determine that many causes for schizophrenia have been explored. Currently, the vulnerability stress model and neurodevelopmental model are widely accepted.
- Recognize that assessment of schizophrenia is difficult in childhood and treatments are typically based on adult theories. Treatment includes medication, education, and psychosocial intervention.