What is Autism Disorder?
Autism is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests.
Symptoms of Autism?
The main signs and symptoms of autism involve problems in the following areas:
• Communication - both verbal (spoken) and non-verbal (unspoken, such as pointing, eye contact, and smiling)
• Social - such as sharing emotions, understanding how others think and feel, and holding a conversation
• Routines or repetitive behaviors (also called stereotyped behaviors) - such as repeating words or actions, obsessively following routines or schedules, and playing in repetitive ways
The symptoms of autism can usually be observed by 18 months of age.
There are many possible red flags for autism - behaviors that may be signs or symptoms of autism. Some features may mean a delay in one or more areas of development, while others may be more typical of autism spectrum disorders. If you think your child shows red flags for autism, talk to your health care provider.
The cause of autism is not known. Research suggests that autism is a genetic condition. It is believed that several genes are involved in the development of autism. Research studies in autism have found a variety of abnormalities in the brain structure and chemicals in the brain; however, there have been no consistent findings. One theory is the possibility that autistic disorder is a behavioral syndrome that includes several distinct conditions. However, parenting behaviors are not the cause or a contributing factor to the cause or causes of autism.
Treatment for Autism
Specialized behavioral and educational programs are designed to treat autism. Behavioral therapy is used to teach social skills, motor skills and cognitive (thinking) skills. Behavior modification is also useful in reducing or eliminating maladaptive behaviors. Individualized treatment planning for behavioral therapy is important as autistic children vary greatly in their behavioral needs. Intensive behavior therapy during early childhood and home-based approaches training and involving parents are considered to produce the best results.
Special education programs that are highly structured focus on developing social skills, speech, language, self-care, and job skills. Medication is also helpful in treating some symptoms of autism in some children. Mental health professionals provide parent counseling, social skills training, and individual therapy. They also help families identify and participate in treatment programs based on an individual child's treatment needs. Specific treatment will be determined by your child's physician based on:
• your child's age, overall health, and medical history
• extent of the disorder
• your child's symptoms
• your child's tolerance for specific medications or therapies
• expectations for the course of the disorder
• your opinion or preference
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