What is Autism?
Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that is marked by the presence of impaired social interaction and communication. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the prevalence of autism has been estimated to affect as many as 1 in 88 children and is four times more common in boys than in girls. Autism speaks concludes that more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes or pediatric AIDS combined.
Children with autism show a variety of symptoms, ranging from severe impairment in the use of nonverbal behaviors that regulate social interaction to a failure to develop peer relationships.
Children with autism may have a delay in or a total lack of spoken language. In children who do speak, there may be a delay in the ability to sustain a conversation with others or a stereotypic and repetitive use of language. They may also show a lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play and often have restricted, repetitive patterns of activity. They may have a range of behavioral symptoms that can include hyperactivity, short attention span, impulsivity, aggressiveness, self-injurious behavior, and/or temper tantrums. Additionally, they may demonstrate unusual responses to sensory stimuli, sometimes observed as a lack of response to pain or a hypersensitivity to particular sounds. In addition, children with Autism often have unusual eating and sleeping habits. These symptoms can result in deficits in social interactions and difficulties in developing peer relationships.
Because autism is a severe, chronic developmental disorder that can result in a significant lifelong disability, the goal of treatment is to promote the child’s social and language development and minimize behaviors that interfere with the child’s functioning and learning. Intensive, sustained behavior therapy early in life can increase the ability of a child with autism to acquire language and to learn.
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