Autism Explained

Autism is a complicated developmental disorder that is also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) since the symptoms and severity of the condition can vary greatly. Most commonly, autism affects a person's ability to correctly process emotions, language and sensory information.

It is estimated that one out of every 110 kids in America will be diagnosed with autism. No one is certain what causes the disorder, and the subject continues to be hotly debated across the country and the world. Autism is generally diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 6 years old, but symptoms usually surface much earlier. 

Warning Signs of Autism

Little or no eye contact 

Lack of social engagement 

Speech delay or lack of speech 

Lack of pretend play 

Inability to point with index finger 

Regression or loss of skills at any time

For a complete list of autism warning signs from the CDC, click here. 

Your child should begin to make eye contact with you as an infant and respond to you with a smile at around 3 months old.

If by 5 months old your child is not smiling or he/she dislikes peek-a-boo from 6 to 9 months, talk to your pediatrician. Not every child is talking by their first birthday, but a typical 12-month-old says at least "mama" and "dada," and can point with his or her index finger. If your child seems unresponsive, or at any time loses a skill, it could be an indicator of autism. Repetitive behaviors, spinning or rocking may also be a sign of the disorder.

If your child is exhibiting any of these behaviors, seek the advice of your doctor.
"Brains can heal if aggressive treatment is done early," pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says. 

Research by the University of Washington shows that an autistic child's IQ, language ability and social interaction skills can be improved if the disease is detected early.

Treatment options  

While there is no definitive cure for autism, the disorder can be managed. Treatments vary from person to person, since autism affects individuals in different ways. Autism is often treated with applied behavior anaylsis, hyperbaric chambers, speech therapy, water therapy, music, and working with animals. In certain cases, medicinal marijuana has been shown to have a positive effect on autistic behavior.

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