First identified in 1943, autism is a neurobiological disorder that typically persists throughout a person’s lifetime. There are varying degrees of autism, which is classified as a spectrum disorder.
Experts estimate that autism occurs in one of every 150 people. Boys are much more likely to be affected than girls, with a 1 in 94 incidence, according to the Autism Society of America.
Those with autism often have impaired communication abilities and have difficulty relating to others. Those with severe autism may have no language at all. Repetitive behaviors are common, such as obsessively arranging objects or rocking back and forth.
Autism can often be diagnosed by age 3, although with new research, a diagnosis may occur much earlier. In some cases, children seem to be developing normally until a certain point and then begin losing skills. This common scenario has led many parents to question whether or not routine childhood vaccinations have been a factor in the onset of autism. No clear link has as yet been shown, but the debate continues. Close to 5,000 claims arguing that specific cases of autism are linked to vaccines are backed up in a federal vaccine court.
Although there is no cure, early intervention can significantly improve the developmental outlook for children with autism.
Signs to look for in children:
– Lack of or delay in spoken language.
– Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects).
– Little or no eye contact.
– Lack of interest in peer relationships.
– Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play.
– Persistent fixation on parts of objects.
ó Source: Autism Society of America