Autism symptoms appear before 3 years of age and are much more common in boys than in girls. Autism causes the inability of a child to learn, socialize, communicate, and behave in a normal fashion. Symptoms vary in severity across afflicted individuals.
Although not completely understood, evidence demonstrates that autism is caused through a biological process rather than an environmental one. There are several known contributing conditons or events which have been linked to the increased incidence of the development of autism.
Although different from mental retardation many autistic children are also mentally retarded.
- inability to learn speech
- unusual speech patterns, pitch, and rhythm
- repetitive speech, improper use of words
- unusual attachments to objects
- repetitive motor actions (hand gestures, rocking)
- self destructive actions (biting self, head banging)
- unusual resistance to changes in environment or routines
- avoidance of eye contact
- non-seeking of parental comfort
- avoidance of other children
- inability to recognize behaviors, attitudes, and actions of others
- inability to form close relationships
Diagnosis is typically through examination and observation of symptoms in a setting with other children, and with reports of behavior from the parents. Standard tests can benefit the diagnosis and help determine a possible biological cause.
There is no cure. Monitoring of the child’s development and progress can help evaluate future prognosis for the disorder. Severely affected children are likely to need institutional care throughout most of their adult lives.
Treatment is aimed at modifying abnormal behaviors and correcting social deficiencies. If possible, behavioral training, specialized education, and drug administration are generally used to promote reintegration with society.