What is Autism?
Autism is one of the disorders in a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders. Autism (also known as classical autism) causes social and developmental impairment in affected children. There are several different disorders in the Autism Spectrum Disorders including classical autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), Rett Syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders
Impaired social skills/social interaction
Child may not make eye contact or use other nonverbal forms of communication.
Child does not make friends or has difficulty relating with peers.
Child does not show empathy or cannot understand how someone else feels.
Child does not play with others or prefers to be by himself.
Child does not have imaginary play or play with toys.
Child does not respond to his name.
Impaired language and communication
Child is delayed in spoken language or does not talk at all. (About 40% of children with ASD do not talk at all).
Child has difficulty starting conversations or sustaining a conversation.
Child is repetitive. He may repeat the same things over and over or may develop rituals or routines.
Child may parrot what is said to him. This condition is known as echolalia.
Child may line up toys or objects excessively.
Child may have repetitive body movements such as hand flapping.
Child may have sensory issues. Certain textures, tastes or sounds may bother him.
Child may have seizures. One in four children with ASD have seizures.
How is autism diagnosed?
Autism is often diagnosed in early childhood. Parents or doctors may notice social and language delays that may lead them to seek an evaluation. Diagnosis of autism requires a thorough evaluation by a multidisciplinary team including a neurologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, and other professionals.
Treatment for autism
Although there is no cure for autism, children with autism can receive therapy to improve their social and communication skills. There are also medications that may help with some of the symptoms that accompany autism.
Resources and Information on Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism Society of America
Autism Research Institute (ARI)
Cure Autism Now (CAN) Foundation
Together for Autism