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Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is autism?

Autism is a disability that affects how children relate to others.  It is believed that about one of every 166 children is born with autism or are likely to develop it.  Autism affects children of all races, however four times more boys are diagnosed with autism than girls.

What does it mean to have autism?

Children with autism usually have problems with communication, social interactions, and play activities.  In some cases, aggressive and/or self-harm behaviors may be present.

What causes autism?

It is believed that autism is caused by differences in the structure of the brain or the way the brain works.  Parenting does not cause autism.

What are the signs or symptoms of autism?

Autism usually appears during the first three years of life.  Autism is described as a spectrum disorder, which means it affects each child differently.  Some children may have only mild problems and others will have great difficulties in many areas.  Children with autism usually have some of the following traits:

  • Little or no eye contact with others
  • Problems with change; insisting on things being the same
  • Little or no use of spoken words
  • Temper tantrums
  • Not wanting to be cuddled or held
  • Crying and getting upset for no reason
  • Overly sensitive to touch and sound
  • Wanting to be alone; not interested in playing with others
  • Hand-flapping or other repetitive, self-stimulating behaviors
  • Head-banging or other self-harm behaviors

What is the treatment for autism?

There is no one treatment for autism.  Many treatment approaches have been developed to address the social, language, sensory, and behavioral difficulties faced by these children and their families.  Children with autism can learn to show improvement with treatment and education.  Children do not “outgrow” autism, but symptoms may improve as the child develops and receives treatment.  If you’ve had experience raising a child with autism, please share your story of how you’ve dealt with this diagnosis.

Reviewed by Heather Rotolo, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC.

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