What is Autism?
Autism is an early onset neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by impaired social communication, restricted interests, stereotyped and repetitive behaviors. Autism is a wide spectrum disorder, and describes a range in the severity of symptoms. It is thought to also be associated with alterations in sensory processing including difficulties in integration of information across different sensory modalities. This refers to the feeling of "sensory overload", where a child cannot handle too much external (visual, auditory, tactile, etc.) stimuli.
This disorder affects about <1% of children in the entire world. As of last month, the CDC announced that the prevalence of this disorder is 1 in every 68 children in the U.S. It is speculated that the prevalence level may be due to the fact that children in more developed countries displaying Autistic symptoms would be diagnosed more than in other 3rd world countries. Although this disorder is no more prevalent in one socioeconomic or racial group than another, it is more likely to affect males than females. The reason for this is still unclear.
Some signs to look out for:
Not responding to their name
Not making direct eye contact with the person talking to them
speaking in a flat, affect tone
arm flapping, walking on their toes
not understanding the emotions of others
not understanding personal boundaries
extreme aversion to changes in their routine
Click here for more information about specific symptoms
Oftentimes, caregivers of autistic children report normal development up until the age of 2 or 3 years. Then they see a gradual regression in verbal, motor, and social skills in their child. Other times, the child may not even start to develop this skills.
Autism can also come with intellectual disability (ID), epilepsy, motor control difficulties, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), tics, anxiety, sleep disorders, and gastrointestinal problems.
In the next "Get the Facts" Post, we'll discuss possible causes of Autism, how it is diagnosed, and therapies and treatment options.