Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Article # 343. Overview of Autism

Overview of Autism
What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disorders, often manifested in early childhood, that are characterized by impaired social interactions, difficulties with verbal and nonverbal communication, and behavioral challenges including repetitive or obsessive activities.
While individuals affected with autism often have similar symptoms, the severity of these symptoms and when they begin to exhibit these symptoms varies from individual to individual.

There are three types of autism spectrum disorders. This includes:
  • Autistic Disorder (also called “classic” autism). Individuals with this disorder typically have significant language delays, social and communication challenges, and unusual behaviors and interests.

  • Asperger Syndrome Individuals with this syndrome typically have a milder form of autism primarily associated with social challenges and unusual behavior but without impairment in language development.

  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PPD-NOS; also called “atypical autism”). Individuals with this disorder do not meet the diagnostic criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome and typically have fewer and milder symptoms compared to “classic” autism.
Autism is one of the most frequent childhood disorders affecting approximately 1 in 88 children, with boys affected almost five times more frequently than girls.
The cause of autism is poorly understood with many researchers believing that autism may be a result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Many experts believe that diagnosis can be established when a child is approximately 18 months of age, unfortunately, many children are not diagnosed until they are 4 years or older, limiting the opportunity for behavior modifying therapy early in life. 
Several recent studies have reported improved developmental outcomes associated with early intervention therapies for children with autism. Based on these studies, early identification of children at risk of autism is essential because it allows for earlier intervention.
Identifying methods to detect autism in children when they are much younger may make it possible to provide interventional care much earlier.


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