- Autism is a developmental condition that can make both verbal and non-verbal communication more difficult.
- Psychiatrist Leo Kanner first coined the term "infantile autism" in 1943, but autism symptoms were documented and recognized as far back as the 1700s.
- Autism diagnoses are increasing among both boys and girls in the US, but that is not necessarily an indication that autism is "on the rise." It could just be a condition that is more frequently diagnosed than it used to be.
- Everyone with autism is a little different, and symptoms can range from subtle to debilitating. Here’s what to know about what autism is really like, and how it’s actually diagnosed.
Autism is a disorder that’s spurred by changes in a young child’s brain. It is not a mental health condition — autism stems from developmental differences in a person’s brain structure and neurotransmitters.
Children who develop autism may literally see the world differently, and the brain changes can have an effect on how they talk, interact, and focus.
Autism looks a little different in every child, though, and symptoms on the autism "spectrum" can range from mild to debilitating conditions that make verbal communication near impossible. Here are some key facts about a disorder that is in many ways still a mystery to scientists and doctors alike.
Autism diagnoses are grouped into a broad range of conditions that range from subtle to debilitating. These conditions are called "Autism Spectrum Disorders."
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Generally speaking, "people with ASD tend to have communication deficits, such as responding inappropriately in conversations, misreading nonverbal interactions, or having difficulty building friendships appropriate to their age," according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Even though most children with autism are not diagnosed until after their fourth birthday, many parents notice some developmental differences in the first year of an autistic child’s life. These can include concerns about how well a child is hearing or seeing, and differences in communication and fine motor skills.
Autism manifests a little bit differently in each person. Some of the most common symptoms include trouble making eye contact, and difficulty maintaining a regular back-and-forth conversation.
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The following are 7 "red flags" that the US Centers and Disease Control has identified for parents who are concerned their child may have autism:
- A child not responding to his/her name by 1 year old
- A child not pointing to objects he or she is interested in by 14 months old
- A child not playing pretend games by 18 months old
- Avoiding eye contact
- Getting upset about minor changes (in a schedule, in their surroundings, etc.)
- Repeated movements like flapping hands, rocking, or spinning in circles
- Unusual or intense reactions to how things look, feel, taste, and smell
The prevalence of autism diagnoses is rising in young children, but that is not necessarily an indication that there are more autistic people being born. It could just be that more cases are being diagnosed.
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Autism numbers may be going up because we have better ways of monitoring and assessing symptoms that were once just considered personality quirks.
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