What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that typically appears during early childhood and impairs a person’s ability to communicate and interact. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors such as; delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with reasoning and planning, narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills and sensory sensitivity. Autism spectrum disorder symptoms vary widely and vary in severity. The 2016 prevalence of autism has risen to 1 in every 68 births from the 2004 rate of 1 in 125.
Symptoms of autism can be apparent as early as 18-24 months, but are typically easier to observe during early childhood (2-6 years). Well-baby/child visits should include a preliminary screening of your child’s developmental progress. Five “red flag” behaviors are:
Does not babble or coo by 12 months
Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
Does not say single words by 16 months
Does not say two-word phrases by 24 months
Has any loss of language or social skills
Any of these behaviors does not mean your child has autism, but should be evaluated further.
Diagnosis of autism may sometimes take time. Symptoms can be confused with intellectual disabilities, sensory processing issues, or problems with hearing or vision. At times these conditions can coincide with autism. It is very important to take into consideration input from parents, caregivers, and/or teachers when receiving a medical diagnosis.
Autism does not have any known single cause. It is generally accepted that autism is caused by abnormalities in the brain’s structure or function. Brain scans display different shape and structure in the brains of children with autism. Current research is investigating causes related to heredity, genetics and medical problems.
Asperger’s syndrome has less severe symptoms than classic autism. Typically, those with Asperger’s have good language and cognitive skills and do not display a delay in language. A person with Aspergers’s Disorder must possess an average to above-average intelligence. Children with Asperger’s frequently have motor skill delays, appearing clumsy. Those with Asperger’s tend to be socially awkward. They may not understand conventional social rules or show a lack of empathy.
Early detection of autism or Asperger’s allows for access to appropriate services and support with significantly improved outcomes. For more information on autism and Asperger’s please visit the autism society.