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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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Autism - Topic Overview


There are guidelines your doctor will use to see if your child has symptoms of autism. The guidelines put symptoms into categories such as:

  • Social interactions and relationships. For example, a child may have trouble making eye contact. People with autism may have a hard time understanding someone else's feelings, such as pain or sadness.
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication. For example, a child may never speak. Or he or she may often repeat a certain phrase over and over.
  • Limited interests in activities or play. For example, younger children often focus on parts of toys rather than playing with the whole toy. Older children and adults may be fascinated by certain topics, like trading cards or license plates.

Your child may also have a hearing test and some other tests to make sure that problems are not caused by some other condition.

Treatment for autism involves special behavioral training. Behavioral training rewards appropriate behavior (positive reinforcement) to teach children social skills and to teach them how to communicate and how to help themselves as they grow older.

With early treatment, most children with autism learn to relate better to others. They learn to communicate and to help themselves as they grow older.

Depending on the child, treatment may also include such things as speech therapy or physical therapy. Medicine is sometimes used to treat problems such as depression or obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Exactly what type of treatment your child needs depends on the symptoms, which are different for each child and may change over time. Because people with autism are so different, something that helps one person may not help another. So be sure to work with everyone involved in your child's education and care to find the best way to manage symptoms.

An important part of your child's treatment plan is making sure that other family members get training about autism and how to manage symptoms. Training can reduce family stress and help your child function better. Some families need more help than others.

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