Autism is the common term used to describe a full range of developmental disabilities that impact a person’s social, communication, and developmental progress. Autism can impact each person in a different way, producing a range of mild to severe symptoms. There are several types of autism-related disorders (also called Autism Spectrum Disorders, or ASDs).“Classic” autism includes language development and communication challenges, unusual behaviors and interests, and the potential for intellectual disabilities. Asperger Syndrome is another form of the disorder, one that does not usually include any challenges of language or intellect. The CDC estimates that about 1 in 110 children may be impacted by some form of Autism.
We do not definitively know what causes autism. Experts at the leading universities around the world as well as at the CDC and NIH are trying to find answers. It is important to note that despite misinformation on the internet and elsewhere, there is no scientific evidence that vaccinations play any role in autism. We do know there is a genetic predisposition to the condition, and we also know that a large percentage of the children who were formerly diagnosed as mentally retarded are now being diagnosed as autistic. Also, many of the kids we parents went to school with who are now the computer gurus, scientists, engineers, and doctors of the world could possibly have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome had they had been born in 1994 instead of 1964.
Symptoms of autistic disorders usually appear before age 3, generally by 18-24 months. It’s important to remember that autism can impact each individual differently. Children with forms of autism may struggle with language, avoid eye contact, become agitated by minor changes, not engage fully with the world around them, exhibit habitual or repetitive movements, repeat phrases over and over, or be generally unresponsive to social stimuli. Twenty percent of kids on the autistic spectrum have a type called “regressive” autism, where they begin with normal development and then regress into more autistic behavior in the 1-3 year age range. There is no medical test for autism-related disorders, but your physician can make appropriate determinations by interacting with your child and checking your child’s developmental progress.
There is no cure at this time for autism or related disorders, but research has indicated that early diagnosis and intervention can help children with these conditions improve social and language skill development. If you have concerns about your child’s progress at any stage, be sure to contact us to discuss your concerns.
Visit any of the following links to learn more:
The CDC - Factual information about autism.
Autism Speaks - An organization dedicated to raising public awareness and assisting all those affected by autism.
www.ianproject.org - Website from AAP News linking the autism community and researchers.
www.kylestreehouse.org - Site explaining autism, its treatment and resources for families.
www.firstsigns.org - Comprehensive site exploring diagnosis and managing autism and autism spectrum disorders.
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/actearly - Tools to learn the early developmental signs that might indicate autism and allow for early intervention.
Could it be Autism? Guide to the First Signs – by Nancy Wiseman, MD.