Autism is a developmental problem that appears early in childhood. It affects a child’s social interaction, language, and behavior. This makes it difficult for an autistic child to communicate and interact with others.
Up to 6 out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism and the numbers seem to be rising. This fact could be due to an actual increase in the incidence of autism or perhaps is just a reflection of better detecting and reporting of the condition.
Diagnosis is difficult. Although the signs of autism may show up by 18 months of age, the diagnosis may not be reached until the age of 2 to 3 years. Early diagnosis is associated with a better chance of improvement.
Common symptoms of autism are:
- Social Skills: May not respond to his or her name, has poor eye contact, appears not to hear you and retreats to his or her own world.
- Language: Starts talking later than other children, no eye contact when speaking, can’t start a conversation or keep one going, and loses previously learned ability to say words or phrases.
- Behavior: Performs repetitive movements, develops strict routines and rituals, moves constantly, and is disturbed by the slightest change of routine.
There are many possible causes of autism including:
- Genetics – Some genes are inherited and some can change after birth.
- Environmental factors – Environmental pollutants and virus infections may play a role in triggering autism.
- Other causes – Problems during labor and delivery during birth as well as possible effects of the immune system may cause autism.
- Immunizations – This is the greatest controversy and a major reason why parents choose not to have their children routinely immunized. After much extensive study, to date, no link has been found between immunizations and autism. Again, this remains very controversial.
Risk factors include:
- Childs sex. Autism is 3 to 4 times more common in boys than girls.
- Family history. Families with one autistic child run a higher risk for having a second child with the disorder.
- Paternal age. The older the father the greater chance of having an autistic child.
Treatment of autism may include:
- Behavior and communication therapy
- Educational therapy
- Drug therapy (may help symptoms, is not a cure.)
- Creative therapy such as music and art.
Coping with autism:
- Find a team of professionals who you can trust.
- Learn as much as you can about the disorder.
- Seek out other families of autistic children.
We, as a community, need to be understanding and supportive of families with autistic children. Working with a child that requires extra attention can be exhausting for families. Autistic children can also bring talents beyond expectation. We can be grateful for such famous autistic geniuses as Beethoven, Mozart