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The Latest on Autism

Understanding the Ruling on Autism-Like Symptoms and Vaccines continued...

Understandably, many parents are worried about the risks that are thought to accompany vaccinations. Ever since the first vaccines were developed, there have been risks. Most vaccine side effects are mild, and severe ones are extremely rare. But the use of vaccines in children has essentially eradicated a number of major childhood diseases that kill. When parents fail to vaccinate their children, the risk of serious -- even deadly -- disease epidemics extends beyond them and their families to their neighborhoods and communities. Failure to vaccinate lays the foundation for new epidemics that could result in serious harm to your child. For instance, a decline in vaccination rates in some European countries has led to fatal outbreaks of measles. Deadly outbreaks of pertussis have also been seen in the U.S. and Great Britain because of an irrational fear to immunize.

In short, while some advocacy groups continue to take issue with immunizations, CDC officials maintain that this ruling should not be seen as indicating a risk from vaccines for all children. In a statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics reinforced its dedication to the health of all children and urges parents to fully immunize their children.

What Difficulties Does a Child With Autism Face?

Children with autism have trouble communicating. They have trouble understanding what other people think and feel. This makes it very hard for them to express themselves either with words or through gestures, facial expressions, and touch.

An autistic child who is very sensitive may be greatly troubled -- sometimes even pained -- by sounds, touches, smells, or sights that seem normal to others.

Autistic children may have repeated body movements such as rocking or hand flapping. They may have unusual responses to people, attachments to objects, resistance to change in their routines, or aggressive or self-injurious behavior. At times, they may seem not to notice people, objects, or activities in their surroundings. 

Some people with autism are mentally challenged, although most people with pervasive developmental disorder or PDD have normal or even above-average intelligence. In contrast to being cognitively impaired, which is characterized by relatively even skill development, people with autism show uneven skill development. Those with autism may have problems in certain areas, especially the ability to communicate and relate to others. But they may have unusually developed skills in other areas, such as drawing, creating music, solving math problems, or memorizing facts. For this reason, they may test higher -- perhaps even in the average or above-average range -- on nonverbal intelligence tests.

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