Autism is a brain development disorder that shows its first signs in early childhood. It results in a lifelong disorder with problems in reasoning, social interaction, and communication. Children with autism become self-focused, lose ability to relate to others, and have trouble with language, reasoning, and play.
The cause is unknown, and autism cannot be prevented. It occurs more in boys than in girls and more in some families. Autism may result from chemical changes in the brain. Conditions affecting brain development before, during, or after birth may play a role.
It isn’t due to immunizations, bad parenting, or a behavior disorder, however.
Some children have mild symptoms, others have worse symptoms. Symptoms include turning inward and withdrawing from society. Some symptoms start when children are very young, even 1 to 2 years old. Children don’t make eye contact, smile, or cuddle. They want to stay alone in a crib or bed, sometimes for many hours. They don’t want to be disturbed. They don’t want attention. They are quiet and passive. They may repeat gestures or behaviors, such as flicking fingers, arranging objects, and insisting on rituals. Autistic children have short attention spans.
Older children may be overly sensitive to sounds, smells, touch, or taste. They may lack imaginative play. They may not learn to speak when expected.
Children react to changes in the home or in the usual routine with temper tantrums. At about age 5 to 6, self-isolation, tantrums, and rituals tend to occur less often. Even then, children don’t learn language and social skills normally. However, some children older than 10 have had a normal school education, and some adults with autism have lived alone and held jobs.
No specific test is available. A team of doctors and others makes the diagnosis. This team includes a neurologist (doctor specializing in nervous system diseases), psychologist, pediatrician, speech therapist, and learning consultant.
Tests may be done to rule out other illnesses.
No cure exists, but with proper help children can learn to cope with symptoms.
Early intensive interventions are the most successful. Lifelong follow-up care will be needed. Therapy may include speech and language, occupational, and physical therapies. Therapy can help children learn how to communicate better, improve fine muscle movement, and help develop strength, coordination, and movement.
The health care provider and counselor may suggest music therapy, behavior modification, and specific diets.
There are no specific medicines to treat autism. Sometimes, the health care provider may suggest medicine to treat specific symptoms.
Contact the following sources: