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Autism: Symptoms, Facts and Treatment Research

  • Synopsis: Last Revised/Updated: 2017-11-17 - Autism is a brain development disorder that is characterized by impaired social interaction communication and restricted repetitive behavior

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior. Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child's life. The signs typically develop gradually, but some children with autism will reach their developmental milestones at a normal pace and then regress.

Main Document

Autism is a brain development disorder that is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior, all starting before a child is three years old. This set of signs distinguishes autism from milder autism spectrum disorders (ASD) such as pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

Autism falls under the category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders, which includes disorders like Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and then autism is then divided up in many different subtypes including Asperger's Syndrome.

Autism effects the fields of social skills, communication and stereotypical behaviors, which most people associated with things like rocking, flapping, lining things up, etc.

The prevalence of ASD is about 6 per 1,000 people, with about four times as many boys as girls.

Autism affects many parts of the brain; how this occurs is not understood.

Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child's life. Early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help children gain self-care, social, and communication skills. There is no known cure.

For reasons as yet unidentified, autism has become an epidemic in America over the last couple of decades. While considerable controversy surrounds the issue of why this condition is escalating so rapidly, the number of children diagnosed with autism has risen from one in 2,000 to one in 66 today. Other proposed causes, such as childhood vaccines, are controversial, and the vaccine hypotheses lack any convincing scientific evidence.

Autism and ADHD could present with each other or with a variety of other conditions - but they do not "typically" present together.

Some autism symptoms could appear like inattention. You should not easily confuse someone with ADHD with someone with autism as their functioning and behavior are different.

Autistic individuals display many forms of repetitive or restricted behavior, which the Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised (RBS-R)[28] categorizes as follows:

  • Stereotypy is apparently purposeless movement, such as hand flapping, making sounds, head rolling, or body rocking.
  • Compulsive behavior is intended and appears to follow rules, such as arranging objects in a certain way.
  • Sameness is resistance to change; for example, insisting that the furniture not be moved or refusing to be interrupted.
  • Ritualistic behavior involves the performance of daily activities the same way each time, such as an unvarying menu or dressing ritual. This is closely associated with sameness and an independent validation has suggested combining the two factors.
  • Restricted behavior is limited in focus, interest, or activity, such as preoccupation with a single television program or toy.
  • Self-injury includes movements that injure or can injure the person, such as biting oneself. A 2007 study reported that self-injury at some point affected about 30% of children with ASD.

No single repetitive behavior seems to be specific to autism, but only autism appears to have an elevated pattern of occurrence and severity of these behaviors.

Screening process for early identification of infants at risk of autism:

Quote from a press release dated 15-Apr-2014 by SAGE Publications;

Studies have shown an increased head circumference and the absence of the head tilt reflex as possible risk factors for autism spectrum disorder, allowing for early detection at 12 months in typically developing population of infants.

Our aim was to develop a screening tool to identify infants prior to 12 months at risk for autism spectrum disorder and developmental learning delay, not affected by literacy or primary parental language, and provide immediate determination of risk for autism spectrum disorder.

An abrupt head circumference acceleration and the absence of head tilt reflex by 9 months were used to identify infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder.

Stability of early findings was then investigated when compared to comprehensive standardized neuro-developmental assessment results and complete neurological and genetics evaluations.

A total of 1024 typically developing infants were enrolled by 9 months, with 14 identified as at risk for autism spectrum disorder and 33 for developmental learning delay.

There was a good positive predictive value for the identification of autism spectrum disorder prior to 12 months.

This study demonstrates an efficient means to identify infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder by 9 months of age and serves to alert primary care providers of infants who are vulnerable for autism spectrum disorder before symptoms are discernible by clinical judgment of primary care providers, parental concerns, or by screening questionnaires.

Also see our list of Famous People on the Autism Spectrum

Autism Awareness Information

Autism awareness puzzle ribbon

The Puzzle Autism Awareness Ribbon reflects the mystery and complexity of the autism spectrum. The different colors and shapes represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition. The brightness of the ribbon signals hope that through increased awareness of autism, and early intervention and appropriate treatments, people with autism will lead fuller, more complete lives.

World Autism Awareness Day is April 2, Each April 2, people celebrates Light It Up Blue along with the international autism community, in commemoration of the United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day.

The United States recognizes April as Autism Awareness Month and an opportunity to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community. The Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month since the 1970s.

Quick Facts: ASD

Children and Adults with ASD May:

  • avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • repeat actions over and over again
  • have trouble adapting when a routine changes
  • not look at objects when another person points at them
  • not play "pretend" games (for example, not pretend to feed a doll)
  • have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to
  • have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
  • lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)
  • have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
  • appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
  • not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)
  • have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language

Statistics: Autism

The number of people diagnosed has been increasing dramatically since the 1980s, partly due to changes in diagnostic practice and government-subsidized financial incentives for named diagnoses; the question of whether actual rates have increased is unresolved.

  • The rate of autism among adults aged 18 years and over in the United Kingdom is 1.1%.
  • About 1.5% of children in the United States (1 in 68) are diagnosed with ASD as of 2014, a 30% increase from one in 88 in 2012.
  • As of 2010 the rate of autism is estimated at about 1 to 2 per 1,000 people worldwide, and it occurs four to five times more often in boys than girls.
  • Boys are at higher risk for ASD than girls. The sex ratio averages 4.3:1 and is greatly modified by cognitive impairment: it may be close to 2:1 with intellectual disability and more than 5.5:1 without.
Latest Autism Facts and Information Publications
1 - The Multiple Mutations of Autism - University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine.
2 - Connection Between Autism Prevalence and Socioeconomic Status - University of Wisconsin-Madison.
3 - New Genetic Risk Factor for Developing Autism Spectrum Disorder Identified - Oregon Health and Science University.
4 - Cognitive Behavior Therapy Effects On Parents of Children with Autism - York University.
5 - Females with Autism Show Greater Difficulty with Everyday Tasks Than Males - Children's National Health System.
6 - Early Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder May Be Possible - UT Southwestern Medical Center.
7 - Treating ASD by Targeting Bacteria in the Gut - Frontiers.
8 - NIH Study Suggests Baby Teeth Link Autism and Heavy Metals - NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
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