|Autism is a developmental disability that generally appears before the child is 24 months of age. Children show delays or regression in speech, social skills and physical abilities. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. 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. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.Autism spectrum disorders can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3, although new research is pushing back the age of diagnosis to as early as 6 months. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child’s failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills. Pediatricians may initially dismiss signs of autism, thinking a child will “catch up,” and may advise parents to “wait and see.” New research shows that when parents suspect something is wrong with their child, they are usually correct. If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait: speak to your pediatrician about getting your child screened for autism.If your child is diagnosed with autism, early intervention is critical to gain maximum benefit from existing therapies. Children do not outgrow autism. There is no cure as yet. Although parents may have concerns about labeling a toddler as “autistic,” the earlier the diagnosis is made, the earlier interventions can begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.
Persons with autism may possess the following characteristics in various combinations and in varying degrees of severity
Absence or delay of speech and language:
• Repetition of words (echolalia) in place of a normal verbal communication.
• Hand leading to communicate in place of verbal requests.
• Absence of verbal communication.
Difficulty relating to other children and adults:
• Absence of eye contact. (When directly in front of the child, they may look in every direction, except at the individual in from of them)
• Apparent aloofness
• Lack of interest in other children and what the other children are doing.
• Lack of response to verbal requests.
• No response when name is called.
• Avoidance of physical contact (even with parents and siblings).
• Indifference to others in distress or pain.
• Self-stimulation, spinning, rocking, hand flapping, etc
• Inappropriate laughter or tantrums for no apparent reason
• Inappropriate attachment to objects
• Obsessive compulsive behaviors i.e. lining up objects
• Repetitive odd play for extended periods of time. Example: stacking blocks for a half hour at a time
• Insistence on routine and sameness
• Difficulty dealing with interruption of routine schedule and change
• Possible self injurious behavior or aggressive behavior toward others
(List borrowed from autisminfo.com)