Autism - Topic Overview
What is autism?
Autism is a brain disorder that
often makes it hard to communicate with and relate to others. With autism, the
different areas of the brain fail to work together.
with autism will always have some trouble relating to others. But early
diagnosis and treatment have helped more and more people who have autism to reach
their full potential.
What causes autism?
Autism tends to run in
families, so experts think it may be something that you inherit. Scientists are
trying to find out exactly which genes may be responsible for passing down
autism in families.
Other studies are looking at whether autism
can be caused by other medical problems or by something in your child’s
Some people think that childhood vaccines cause
autism, especially the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine. But studies have
not shown this to be true. It’s important to make sure
that your child gets all childhood vaccines. They help keep your child from
getting serious diseases that can cause harm or even death.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms almost always
start before a child is 3 years old. Usually, parents first notice that their
toddler has not started talking yet and is not acting like other children the
same age. But it is not unusual for a child to start to talk at the same time
as other children the same age, then lose his or her language skills.
Symptoms of autism include:
- A delay in learning to talk, or not talking
at all. A child may seem to be deaf, even though hearing tests are
- Repeated and overused types of behavior, interests, and
play. Examples include repeated body rocking, unusual attachments to objects,
and getting very upset when routines change.
There is no "typical" person with autism. People can have
many different kinds of behaviors, from mild to severe. Parents often say that
their child with autism prefers to play alone and does not make eye contact
with other people.
Autism may also include other problems:
How is autism diagnosed?
There are guidelines your
doctor will use to see if your child has symptoms of autism. The guidelines put
symptoms into three categories:
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.