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What is Autism?

Autism is a type of Pervasive Developmental Disorder. It isa lifelong developmental disability with symptoms that range from mild tosevere. It was once considered a rare condition, but more recentstudies have shown this to not be the case, with certain data showing estimatesof one-in-500 persons diagnosed with autism in the U.S, every year.

Causes and Symptoms

Symptoms of children with autism can vary greatly, eventhough they usually all appear around the 30th month of life. The cause ofautism is not known, but it is not linked to bad parenting, or receiving theMMR vaccine. In the case of children suffering from autism, the child hasproblems with social interaction and relating with their family, peers andcompanions. Symptoms include the child not being able to develop normalnon-verbal social ability, such as returning a smile, or becoming unnaturallyattached to inanimate objects like rubber bands or blankets. Other earlysymptoms can be a lack of interest in sharing their achievements or interests,a lack of cuddling or overt irritation and volatility. Both the symptoms and their difficulty in socialization are highly variable, to the point of some children not interacting with anyone atall and staying in solitude constantly. Milder cases do exhibit affection andeye contact. There are cases of childrenbeing indifferent to parents, not engaging in social games such as hide-and-seek, and using people as tools or as ameans to get something, such as getting a beverage from the refrigerator. It is not uncommon for children with autism do developspeech impediments, such as a delay or total lack of speech, difficulty inmaking conversation or sometimes even echolalia – their speech being limited torepeating things they have previously heard. Children with autism often tend to have repetitive patternsof behavior and activities, like obsessions with certain interests, or self stimulating rituals and routines suchas body rocking, or head banging. A large number of autistic children are also mentally retarded,with IQ’s of less than 68, and are more prone to seizure disorders.

Treatment andDiagnosis

Autism is incurable, but can be treated to minimize itseffects with treatments such as language, social skills and behavioral therapy,with medication usually used to douse the more aggressive symptoms. Somemedicaments are highly controversial, and a recent case has shown that some ofthem are simple placebos. Upon suspicion of autism, visiting a Pediatrician withspecial training, or interest in caring for autistic children, is advised. Achild psychologist or neurologist might also need to be consulted.

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