What is autism?
Autism is a brain disorder that affects how people interact with other people and communicate.
People with autism have trouble talking with and relating to other people. They also have unusual behaviors. The word autism refers to a whole range (spectrum) of related problems. So doctors call these autism spectrum disorders.
Children with autism typically have unusual, repetitive behaviors, have limited interests, and follow rigid routines
Autism starts in childhood and is usually noticeable before age 2
Children with mild symptoms may not be diagnosed until they're school-age
Autism isn't caused by vaccines (shots) or bad parenting
What are the symptoms of autism?
Children with autism have many different symptoms. And how severe the symptoms are varies. However, the different symptoms always involve two things:
Trouble communicating and interacting with people
Unusual, repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities
These symptoms begin at a young age, often when your child is just a baby. However, you and your doctor may recognize the symptoms only when you look back.
In babies, trouble communicating includes:
Not making eye contact
In younger children, trouble communicating and interacting includes:
Being slow to start talking or never learning to talk
Avoiding eye contact when talking to someone
Repeating words other people have said
Talking with a strange rhythm and pitch
Not being able to tell from a person's facial expression or body language if the person is happy, angry, or sad
Not sharing their thoughts and feelings with others
Not interested in having friends
Choosing to play alone
Behavior and activity symptoms include:
Becoming very upset with any change, such as new food, toys, and clothing
Being extremely bothered by certain tastes, smells, or textures
Rocking, hand flapping, or spinning
Head banging or biting themselves
Repeating certain actions, such as watching the same movie over and over or eating the same food at every meal
Unusual interests, such as being very interested in vacuum cleaners or ceiling fans
Many people with autism have intellectual disability Intellectual Disability Intellectual disability is a brain problem that results in lower than normal intelligence. It can happen as your baby's brain develops in your womb. The disability can be mild or more severe... read more and learning disorders Learning Disorders Learning disorders are problems with the brain’s ability to get, remember, or use information. These problems make it hard to focus and do well in school. Children with learning disorders often... read more . Usually, scores are lower on verbal tests than other areas.
How can doctors tell if my child has autism?
Doctors will observe your child in a playroom and ask you and your child’s teachers questions. They'll usually send your child to a psychologist for other tests.
Doctors will also do blood or genetics tests to see if a different problem is causing your child's symptoms, such as a genetic disorder (inherited medical problem).
How is autism treated?
Symptoms are usually lifelong. People with autism with lower intelligence scores are likely to need more support in their adult lives.
Autism is treated with:
Behavioral therapy to develop social skills
Special education at school
Sometimes medicine, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other medicine that may help children stop injuring themselves
Some families try special diets or alternative therapies. There is no good evidence that these are helpful for children with autism. Talk to your doctor about any therapies you're considering.