What Is Autism?

Autism has become a concern for many parents of children of all ages and adults as well. The beginning of this series will start with signs and symptoms of autism.

In the weeks to come I’ll give you some facts, possible causes and some products that might be helpful with treating autism. Hopefully this will be helpful by making you aware of what to look for and what treatments are available.

Autism is a life-long developmental disorder that affects an individuals’ ability to interact with the world around them.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Autism

Children with autism usually display impairments in social, behavioral, and communications skills. Keeping an autism symptoms checklist can help when seeking help from a healthcare professional. Symptoms can include:

Social Difficulties

Autistic boy

  • Lack of eye contact, facial expressions, and social gestures
  • Failure to develop peer relationships
  • Does not seek out social interaction
  • Appears not to hear you at times and lacks responsiveness
  • Resists cuddling, holding and physical touch
  • Appears unaware of others emotions
  • Retreats into his or her “own world” and prefers to play alone

Communications Difficulties

  • Delayed language development or absence of speech
  • Inability to start or sustain conversation
  • Stereotyped or “strange” use of language
  • “Disney speak” – repeats phrases from frequently watched cartoons or movies
  • Language regression – loses previously acquired ability to say certain words or sentences
  • Avoids eye contact when speaking
  • Difficulty expressing own needs and often uses gestures rather than words

Behavioral Difficulties

  • Anger, aggression or violent behavior
  • Eating disorders (e.g. under or over eating)Autism dictionary
  • Mood swings
  • Restricted and repetitive behavior
  • Abnormally intense preoccupation with certain activities or areas of interest
  • Obsessive or inappropriate attachment to certain objects
  • Inflexible insistence on certain non-functional rituals or routines
  • Insists on sameness, and becomes distressed when routines or rituals are changed
  • Stereotyped and repetitive movements called “stimming”, e.g. hand flapping or rocking
  • Preoccupation with parts of objects, such as a fascination with the spinning wheels of a  toy car
  • May be particularly sensitive to loud sounds, bright lights or physical touch and textures

There are currently no medical tests which can diagnose autism. Signs of autism vary from individual to individual. Diagnosis is based on careful observation as well as information provided by parents and other caregivers. Diagnosis can be made by pediatricians, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, or by a multidisciplinary team, usually utilizing what was compiled from the autism symptoms checklist.

There are numerous sites that may be beneficial for further research on autism. One of my favorites is the CDC’s Autism Page.