What is Autism?
Autism is a developmental disorder that can severely impair an individual’s ability to communicate, interact with others, play, develop interests, and learn from typical environments. Because there are varying degrees of symptoms and behaviors identified with individuals with autism, it is also referred to as an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
For example. language may be delayed, disordered, or may not develop at all. Individuals with autism may lack the ability to comprehend or to express non-vocal communications such as gestures or facial expressions. They may appear uninterested in others, may lack ability to understand how others think and feel, or may demonstrate unusual interactions with people, for example, extreme dependency or “clinginess” to one caregiver.
Young children with autism often fail to show, bring, or point out things of interest to their parents or others. Make-believe and social play may not develop normally. Repetitive, stereotypic motor mannerisms may be observed. Some individuals with autism may be intensely preoccupied with a few objects or repetitive ritualistic activities.
Autism Spectrum Disorders roughly affect 1 in 150 children. The cause is unknown. No medical “cure” for autism exists, however with effective treatment, there is hope.
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What To Look For
An early diagnosis is critical. If by 12-18 months of age, your child, or a child you know is exhibiting two or more of the characteristics listed below, FEAT/RI encourages you to seek a developmental evaluation from qualified professionals:
- Does your child attend to language less than his typical peers or not at all?
- Usually fail to respond when his name is called?
- Sometimes appear deaf to spoken words or other sounds?
- Does the child fail to share his interests with you by bringing you things and pointing out items to indicate his interest?
- Is the child’s eye contact irregular, uncomfortable, or non-existent?
- Is the child uninterested in other people (including other children), or has his interest in other children decreased?
Some (but not all) children with Autism/Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) also exhibit some of the following characteristics:
- Unusual body movements
- Word loss
- Hand or finger flapping
- Moving objects repetitively before their eyes
- Unusual responses to sound, light or touch
- Preference for sameness
- Difficulty in transitions from one activity to another
- Limited, repetitive toy play
- Lack of pretend play
- Irrational fears
- Lining up of objects
- Noncompliance with adult requests