Autism is a development disorder that usually appears in the first 3 years of life. Marked by severe impairment in social, emotional and intellectual functioning, individuals with autism typically experience difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions and behavior. Because the symptoms of autism vary greatly, children with the same diagnosis will often act very differently.
Pervasive Development Disorders
Autism falls under the category of Pervasive Development Disorders. Following is a brief description of the three most common of these types of disorders:
Autism: Children with Autism generally have difficulties in three crucial areas of development: communication, social interaction and behavior.
Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD-NOS):A child who shows signs of difficulty in two of the three categories before the age of 2 will likely be diagnosed with PDD-NOS. For instance, he/she may have limited communication and social skills, however, no restricted interests.
Asperger's Syndrome: A child with Asperger's Syndrome will show signs of impaired social functioning and will usually have difficulty initiating and sustaining peer attention. He/she will express limited interest in an object or activity, such as a specific toy, game or sport.
Signs and Symptoms of Autism
While behavior patterns vary from child to child, there are some common characteristics seen in children with Autism, including:
- Failure to respond to his/her name
- Failure to engage in eye contact when making requests
- Resistance to cuddling and hugging
- Appears to not hear or understand when being spoken to, at times
- Isolates him/herself during play time, appears to not want to play with other children
- Starts talking at a later age than other children
- Loses a previously acquired ability to say certain words or sentences
- Speaks with abnormal tone or rhythm
- Repeats words or phrases without knowing how to properly use them
- May perform repetitive motions such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping
- Develops specific routines and rituals and has difficulty with change
- Becomes infatuated with parts of an object such as spinning tires on a toy car
Most children who are diagnosed with Autism have a difficult time sharing experiences with others. They tend to isolate themselves in their "own worlds" by choosing to play alone instead of with other children.
While most children with Autism experience slow development and a low intelligence level, some autistic children learn quickly but have difficulty applying what they know to everyday life. In some cases, a child with Autism will excel in one specific area such as math, music or art.