All About Autism
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON SIGNS OF AUTISM?
• Autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests. The hallmark feature of autism is impaired social interaction.
• As early as infancy, a baby with autism may be unresponsive to people or may focus intently on one item to the exclusion of others for long periods of time. Children with autism often fail to respond to their name and avoid eye contact with other people.
• They also tend to start speaking later than other children and may refer to themselves by name instead of “I” or “me.”
• Many children with autism have a reduced sensitivity to pain, but are abnormally sensitive to sound, touch, or other sensory stimulation.
WHAT CAUSES AUTISM?
Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder. Studies of people with autism have found irregularities in several regions of the brain. Other studies suggest that people with autism have abnormal levels of serotonin or other neurotransmitters in the brain. These abnormalities suggest that autism could result from the disruption of normal brain development early in fetal development caused by defects in genes that control brain growth and that regulate how neurons communicate with each other.
DO SYMPTOMS OF AUTISM CHANGE OVER TIME?
For many children, autism symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Some children with autism grow up to lead normal or near-normal lives. Children whose language skills regress early in life, usually before the age of 3, appear to be at risk of developing epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. During adolescence, some children with autism may become depressed or experience behavioral problems. Parents should be ready to adjust treatment for their child as needed.
HOW IS AUTISM TREATED?
There is no cure for autism. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that target the core symptoms of autism: impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and obsessive or repetitive routines and interests. Most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
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