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Autism Research Paper

Marissa Hamby
Kirkwood Community College

I chose Autism to research because I personally have a brother that has been diagnosed

with autism. Autism is a spectrum disorder which means cases can be very different from one

another and effect each individual differently. It is a disorder that effects brain development and

can cause disrupted social and emotional interaction and repetitive behavior. Autism was first

recognized in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner, who used the term autism to describe children that

lacked emotional and social development and had an abnormally high intelligence. But, now it is

known that not all autism cases have a high IQ. In 1960, autism was referred to as childhood

schizophrenia, but over the years research has progressed to show this terminology was

incorrect. It is hard to pin point one main cause for autism. Autism is known to have a spectrum

and can be anywhere from mild to severe. It is known to be caused by a combination of both

genetic and environmental factors. Usually Autism is detected in early childhood, but can be

detected as early as 2 years of age. According to the CDC, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with

autism. Autism is 4.5 times more likely to occur in boys than in girls. It is not seen more in any

specific racial or ethnic groups. Autism is a very broad disability and effects each patient


Autism effects the brain mainly but can also effect the entire body. There are many

problems associated with autism such as, epilepsy, sleep disorders, immune disorders, and

movement disorders. Children with autism also have a higher risk for developing asthma and

allergies. There are medications to help with the symptoms and effects of Autism, but there is no

cure for Autism. Currently there are two FDA approved medications, risperidone and

aripiprazole, to help with the main symptoms of the disability. Most treatment options include

behavior therapy along with medications, instead of medication alone. There is constant research

to find medications to help lessen the symptoms of the disability. Many people try medications

that are approved for other disorders that can help to lessen the symptoms of autism, but they

may not work the same for everyone. Every medication has side effects and will effect each

patient differently. It is common for patients to sensitize, or have increased side effects after

prolonged use. It is also common to see patients build up a tolerance toward the drug which

makes it less effective toward reducing the side effects. Autism is a lifelong condition and will

effect each person differently, but symptoms will last their entire life, starting around 18 months

to 2 years. Although the disability does last their life time, they may learn to cope with the

symptoms better as they age. The disability is not progressive, but in early childhood the

symptoms become clearer as they develop and get older. Once out of childhood, symptoms are

pretty steady. There is typically no state of remission in autism but patients may get better at

controlling their symptoms.

Since autism is such a broad disorder, it is difficult to categorize all autism patients. There

is no higher caries or periodontal disease risk with autistic patients. It is common to see more

bruxism, tongue thrusting, or lip biting in children with autism due to the repetitive behaviors

that are exhibited. The pain threshold in autism patients is also reduced. Trauma is found more

often in autism patients because of their disabled movements and balance. The common side

effects of medications associated with autism in the oral cavity are xerostomia, speech and

swallowing problems, and delayed eruption which causes gingival hyperplasia. There are many

different medications people try to help lessen the symptoms of autism so it is important to know

all medications the patient is currently taking before starting dental treatment.

Autism is a spectrum disorder so accommodating for each patient should be

individualized and modified depending on the severity and symptoms of their specific case. It is

usually recommended that patients with autism be fully prepped to come to the dental office, as

things out of the ordinary schedule can cause tantrums and stress for the patient. The caregiver

should attend the appointment with the patient to help ease apprehension and fear and keep some

parts of the appointment familiar. It would be best to see these patients in the morning. If the

patient has a severe case of autism, it may be best to see the patient before the office opens to the

general population. It may take the patient some adjusting when they first arrive and may need to

visit the office before having their appointment to help get comfortable with the process.

Sensitivity can be heightened for children with autism so it is important to keep lighting, music,

flavors, and noise to a minimum. It is vital for the clinician to be very literal and soft spoken with

the child as to keep them comfortable and make sure they understand what they are about to do.

Having a patient with autism keep their hands on their belly during the appointment would be a

good idea so their hands are in view of the clinician at all times to avoid harmful situations. This

would be a type of patient the clinician should keep their mouth mirror on the molars to avoid

getting their fingers bit. There are many different ways you can modify the appointment to help

with autism patients. Keeping the dental appointments short is the best approach as their

attention span is very short.

It is important to talk to the caregiver and give oral hygiene instructions to them as well

as working with the patient. The caregiver may be able to give the clinician ideas and

suggestions to help with that patients specific case and habits to help improve home care. It will

be best to add homecare into their daily routine and modify it to the patients current schedule

and daily habits. If the patient uses a sticker chart, it would be helpful if the patient gets a sticker

for brushing and flossing every day. The location of where they brush their teeth or having music

during brushing may help to ease the patient into tolerating the home care routine. The patient

may not have good home care due to the heightened sensitivity so it is important to discuss with

the family what dental aides they have tried and give them suggestions to help make home care

easier for both the patient and the caregiver. It is important to have nutritional counseling with

the patients caregiver because therapy tends to use food as a reward. Informing the caregiver

about what foods contribute to caries and what foods are better choices is vital to keeping the

patients caries risk low. It may be hard to change the eating habits of a child with autism, but

getting the child to have less frequent cariogenic snacks may be an option to help reduce the risk

of caries.

There are many modifications to make during an appointment with an autistic patient.

The clinician may have to try several times before having a successful appointment, but it is

important to keep things familiar and keep the same routines for autistic patients. Oral hygiene

instruction is very important in patients with autism and making sure the caregiver also receives

instruction is vital to keeping home care consistent. Making modifications and being aware of

the disability and the symptoms is the most important part of caring for a patient with autism.


McClure, B. A. (2010). Autism and the dental operatory. Dimensions of Dental Hygiene, 8(2),


Nelson, T., De Bord, J. (2015). Strategies for treating children with autism. Dimensions of

Dental Hygiene, 13(10), 61-64.

Autism Speaks. (2016). What is autism? Retrieved from