What Is Autism?
According to AutismSpeaks, autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines.
How Does Autism Develop?
No one knows for sure. According to AutismSpeaks, recent studies suggest a strong genetic basis for autism - up to 20 sets of genes may play a part in its development. Genetics alone, however, can't account for all the cases, and so scientists are also looking into possible environmental origins, as well as other triggers.
How Can I Tell If A Child Is Autistic?
No two autistic kids are alike, but there are some signs that many of them share and that experts agree may be as recognizable as early as the toddler years, or even sooner. Children on the spectrum generally have difficulty relating to others; they may hardly speak, and if they do, they may not communicate in ways that other people can easily understand (they may screech loudly when they're upset, for example, instead of crying).
According to AutismSpeaks, they don't usually sustain eye contact - it's too intense - and have trouble reading social cues. They're also prone to repetitive behaviors, flapping their hands constantly or uttering the same phrase over and over again. They may also be more sensitive than typically developing children, or dramatically less so, to sights, sounds and touch. Click here for more on the signs.
What Are Some Of The Red Flags Of Autism?
AutismSpeaks recommends that if your baby shows any of these signs, please ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation:
No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter No babbling by 12 months No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months No words by 16 months No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age
How Do I Get Help For A Child?
According to AutismSpeaks, you can start by making sure he has a reputable healthcare team by his side. That means finding doctors, therapists, psychologists and teachers who understand and have experience with autism and can respond to his shifting needs appropriately. Ask your child's pediatrician to recommend a developmental pediatrician with whom you can consult about the next step. She, in turn, can guide you toward various intervention programs and suggest complementary therapies.
To Learn More About Autism:
• Click here for resources from Autism Speaks.
• The Center for Autism Research is dedicated to uncovering the causes of autism through MRI studies to identify the brain structures that are abnormal and describe their atypical growth from late infancy through adulthood.
• The Autism Research Institute has additional resources.
• Learn more about a special camp called Surfer's Healing.