Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal
communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. The diagnostic criteria require that symptoms
become apparent before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by
altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood. It is
one of three recognized disorders in the autism spectrum (ASDs), the other two being Asperger syndrome,
which lacks delays in cognitive development and language, and pervasive developmental disorder, not
otherwise specified (commonly abbreviated as PDD-NOS), which is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for
autism or Asperger syndrome are not met.
Autism is a highly variable neurodevelopmental disorder that first appears during infancy or childhood, and
generally follows a steady course without remission.Overt symptoms gradually begin after the age of six
months, become established by age two or three years, and tend to continue through adulthood, although
often in more muted form. It is distinguished not by a single symptom, but by a characteristic triad of
symptoms: impairments in social interaction; impairments in communication; and restricted interests and
repetitive behavior. Other aspects, such as atypical eating, are also common but are not essential for
diagnosis.Autism's individual symptoms occur in the general population and appear not to associate highly,
without a sharp line separating pathologically severe from common traits.
Many CAUSES OF AUTISM have been proposed, but understanding of the theory of causation of autism and
the other autism spectrum disorders is incomplete.Research indicates that genetic factors predominate.
The heritability of autism, however, is complex, and it is typically unclear which genes are responsible. In
rare cases, autism is strongly associated with agents that cause birth defects. Many other causes have been
proposed, such as childhood immunizations, but numerousepidemiological studies have shown no scientific
evidence supporting any link between vaccinations and autism
Autism belongs to a group of developmental disabilities called autism spectrum disorders. The name "spectrum
" stems from the fact that these disorders affect each child differently. These disorders involve delays in the
development of many basic skills, including the abilities to socialize or form relationships with others and to
communicate effectively. Children with autism may also have intellectual disabilities and behavioral challenges.
What Are the Symptoms of Autism?
Symptoms of autism typically appear before a child is 3 years old and last throughout life. Children with autism
can display a wide range of symptoms, which can vary in severity from mild to disabling. General symptoms
that may be present to some degree in a child with autism include:
Difficulty with verbal communication, including problems using and understanding language
Inability to participate in a conversation, even when the child has the ability to speak
Difficulty with non-verbal communication, such as gestures and facial expressions
Difficulty with social interaction, including relating to people and to his or her surroundings
Difficulty making friends and preferring to play alone
Unusual ways of playing with toys and other objects, such as only lining them up a certain way
Difficulty adjusting to changes in routine or familiar surroundings, or an unreasonable insistence on following
routines in detail
Repetitive body movements, or patterns of behavior, such as hand flapping, spinning, and head banging
Preoccupation with unusual objects or parts of objects
People with a form of autism, called autistic savantism, have exceptional skills in specific areas such as music,
art, and numbers. People with this form of autism are able to perform these skills without lessons or practice.
What Are the Warning Signs That a Child May Have Autism?
Babies develop at their own pace, some more quickly than others. However, you should consider an evaluation
for autism if any of the following apply:
Your child does not babble or coo by 12 months of age
Your child does not gesture, such as point or wave, by 12 months of age
Your child does not say single words by 16 months
Your child does not say two-word phrases on his or her own (rather than just repeating what someone else says)
by 24 months
Your child has lost any language or social skills (at any age)
Your child does not establish or maintain eye contact
Your child does not make facial expressions or respond to your facial expressions
What Causes Autism?
The exact cause of autism is not known, but research has pointed to several possible factors, including genetics
(heredity); metabolic or neurological factors, certain types of infections, and problems occurring at birth.
Recent studies strongly suggest that some people have a genetic predisposition to autism, meaning that a
susceptibility to develop the condition may be passed on from parents to children. Researchers are looking for
clues about which genes contribute to this increased vulnerability. In some children, environmental factors may
also play a role. Studies of people with autism have found abnormalities in several regions of the brain, which
suggest that autism results from a disruption of early brain development while still developing in the mother's
Other autism theories suggest:
The body's immune system may inappropriately produce antibodies that attack the brains of children, causing
autism. This theory is not widely thought of as being valid.
Abnormalities in brain structures cause autistic behavior.
Children with autism have abnormal timing of the growth of their brains. Early in childhood, the brains of
children with autism grow faster and larger than those of normal children. Later, when normal children's brains
get bigger and better organized, the brains of kids with autism grow more slowly.
What is Autism? What Causes Autism?
Autism is known as a complex developmental disability. Experts believe that Autism presents itself during the
first three years of a person's life. The condition is the result of a neurological disorder that has an effect on
normal brain function, affecting development of the person's communication and social interaction skills.
People with autism have issues with non-verbal communication, a wide range of social interactions, and
activities that include an element of play and/or banter.
Genomic research is beginning to discover that people with autism spectrum disorders probably share genetic
traits with individuals with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or
clinical depression. A team at the Cross Disorders Group of the Psychiatric Genomic Consortium suggests that
the five mental disorders and illnesses have the same common inherited genetic variations.
What is ASD?
ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder and can sometimes be referred to as Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
In this text Autism and ASD mean the same. ASDs are any developmental disabilities that have been caused by
a brain abnormality. A person with an ASD typically has difficulty with social and communication skills.
A person with ASD will typically also prefer to stick to a set of behaviors and will resist any major (and many
minor) changes to daily activities. Several relatives and friends of people with ASDs have commented that if the
person knows a change is coming in advance, and has time to prepare for it; the resistance to the change is
either gone completely or is much lower.
Autism is a wide-spectrum disorder
Autism (or ASD) is a wide-spectrum disorder. This means that no two people with autism will have exactly the
same symptoms. As well as experiencing varying combinations of symptoms, some people will have mild
symptoms while others will have severe ones. Below is a list of the most commonly found characteristics
identified among people with an ASD.
The way in which a person with an ASD interacts with another individual is quite different compared to how
the rest of the population behaves. If the symptoms are not severe, the person with ASD may seem socially
clumsy, sometimes offensive in his/her comments, or out of synch with everyone else. If the symptoms are
more severe, the person may seem not to be interested in other people at all.
It is common for relatives, friends and people who interact with someone with an ASD to comment that the
ASD sufferer makes very little eye contact. However, as health care professionals, teachers and others are
improving their ability to detect signs of autism at an earlier age than before, eye contact among people with
autism is improving. In many cases, if the symptoms are not severe, the person can be taught that eye contact is
important for most people and he/she will remember to look people in the eye.
A person with autism may often miss the cues we give each other when we want to catch somebody's attention.
The person with ASD might not know that somebody is trying to talk to them. They may also be very interested
in talking to a particular person or group of people, but does not have the same skills as others to become fully
involved. To put it more simply, they lack the necessary playing and talking skills.
Empathy - Understanding and being aware of the feelings of others
A person with autism will find it much harder to understand the feelings of other people. His/her ability to
instinctively empathize with others is much weaker than other people's. However, if they are frequently
reminded of this, the ability to take other people's feelings into account improves tremendously. In some cases -
as a result of frequent practice - empathy does improve, and some of it becomes natural rather than intellectual.
Even so, empathy never comes as naturally for a person with autism as it does to others.
Having a conversation with a person with autism may feel very much like a one-way trip. The person with ASD
might give the impression that he is talking at people, rather than with or to them. He may love a theme, and
talk about it a lot. However, there will be much less exchanging of ideas, thoughts, and feelings than there
might be in a conversation with a person who does not have autism.
Almost everybody on this planet prefers to talk about himself/herself more than other people; it is human
nature. The person with autism will usually do so even more.
A number of children with an ASD do not like cuddling or being touched like other children do. It is wrong to
say that all children with autism are like that. Many will hug a relative - usually the mother, father,
grandmother, grandfather, teacher, and or sibling(s) - and enjoy it greatly. Often it is a question of practice and
anticipating that physical contact is going to happen. For example, if a child suddenly tickles another child's
feet, he will most likely giggle and become excited and happy. If that child were to tickle the feet of a child with
autism, without that child anticipating the contact, the result might be completely different.
The higher the severity of the autism, the more affected are a person's speaking skills. Many children with an
ASD do not speak at all. People with autism will often repeat words or phrases they hear - an event called
The speech of a person with ASD may sound much more formal and woody, compared to other people's speech.
Teenagers with Asperger's Syndrome can sometimes sound like young professors. Their intonation may sound
A person with autism likes predictability. Routine is his/her best friend. Going through the motions again and
again is very much part of his/her life. To others, these repetitive behaviors may seem like bizarre rites. The
repetitive behavior could be a simple hop-skip-jump from one end of the room to the other, repeated again and
again for one, five, or ten minutes - or even longer. Another could be drawing the same picture again and again,
page after page.
People without autism are much more adaptable to changes in procedure. A child without autism may be quite
happy to first have a bath, then brush his teeth, and then put on his pajamas before going to bed - even though
he usually brushes his teeth first. For a child with autism this change, bath first and then teeth, could completely
put him/her out, and they may become very upset. Some people believe that helping a child with autism learn
how to cope better with change is a good thing, however, forcing them to accept change like others do could
adversely affect their quality of life.
A child with autism develops differently
While a child without autism will develop in many areas at a relatively harmonious rate, this may not be the
case for a child with autism. His/her cognitive skills may develop fast, while their social and language skills
trail behind. On the other hand, his/her language skills may develop rapidly while their motor skills don't. They
may not be able to catch a ball as well as the other children, but could have a much larger vocabulary.
Nonetheless, the social skills of a person with autism will not develop at the same pace as other people's.
Learning may be unpredictable
How quickly a child with autism learns things can be unpredictable. They may learn something much faster
than other children, such as how to read long words, only to forget them completely later on. They may learn
how to do something the hard way before they learn how to do it the easy way.
Physical tics and stimming
It is not uncommon for people with autism to have tics. These are usually physical movements that can be jerky.
Some tics can be quite complicated and can go on for a very long time. A number of people with autism are
able to control when they happen, others are not. People with ASD who do have tics often say that they have to
be expressed, otherwise the urge does not stop. For many, going through the tics is enjoyable, and they have a
preferred spot where they do them - usually somewhere private and spacious. When parents first see these tics,
especially the convoluted ones, they may experience shock and worry.
Myths about autism
A person with autism feels love, happiness, sadness and pain just like everyone else. Just because some of them
may not express their feelings in the same way others do, does not mean at all that they do not have feelings THEY DO!! It is crucial that the Myth - Autistic people have no feelings - is destroyed. The myth is a result of
ignorance, not some conspiracy. Therefore, it is important that you educate people who carry this myth in a
helpful and informative way.
Not all people with autism have an incredible gift or savantism for numbers or music.However, a sizeable
proportion of people with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) have high IQs and a unique talent for computer
science. German software company SAP AG has become aware of this and announced in May 2013 that
itplanned to employ hundreds of people with autism as software testers, programmers and data quality
Parents with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia - a child whose parent, brother, or sister has been diagnosed
with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia has a higher risk of being diagnosed with an ASD.
Older fathers - if the father is older during conception, there is a greater risk of autism for the baby. Scientists
explained in the journal Nature that an older father has a greater chance of passing on new mutations to his
babies than older mothers.
Immune system irregularities that certain changes in an overactive immune system can contribute to autismlike behaviors in mice. In some cases, this activation may be related to how a fetus develops while in the womb.
Specific gene mutations - scientists from the Seattle Children's Research Institute found new gene mutations
which were linked to the development of autism, epilepsy, hydrocephalus and cancer. The mutations were in the
following genes - AKT3, PIK3R2 and PIK3CA. Their study was published in Nature Genetics (July 2012).
Air traffic pollution during pregnancy and autism link - if a pregnant mother is exposed to air traffic
pollution during her pregnancy, the risk of autism in her offspring is greater,
TREATMENT FOR AUTISM
There is no cure for autism; however, with appropriate treatment and education, many children with autism
spectrum disorders can learn and develop. Early intervention often can reduce challenges associated with
autism, lessen disruptive behavior, and provide some degree of independence.
Treatment depends on the needs of the individual. In most cases, a combination of treatment methodsis more
effective. Autism spectrum disorders may require lifelong treatment.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), treatment for autism can include the following:
Behavioral management therapy
Cognitive behavior therapy
Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger disorder (AD) or simply Asperger's, is an autism
spectrumdisorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal
communication, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other
autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not
required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical (peculiar, odd) use of language are frequently reported
The syndrome is named after the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger who, in 1944, studied and described
children in his practice who lacked nonverbal communication skills, demonstrated limited empathy with
their peers, and were physically clumsy.
The exact cause of Asperger's is unknown. Although research suggests the likelihood of a genetic basis, there
is no known genetic cause and brain imaging techniques have not identified a clear common
pathology. There is no single treatment, and the effectiveness of particular interventions is supported by only
limited data. Intervention is aimed at improving symptoms and function. The mainstay of management
is behavioral therapy, focusing on specific deficits to address poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive
routines, and physical clumsiness. Most children improve as they mature to adulthood, but social and
communication difficulties may persist. Some researchers and people with Asperger's have advocated a shift
in attitudes toward the view that it is a difference, rather than a disability that must be treated or cured
Asperger's syndrome, also called Asperger's disorder, is a type of pervasive developmental disorder
(PDD). PDDs are a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most
notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination.
Although Asperger's syndrome is similar in some ways to autism -- another, more severe type of PDD -- there
are some important differences. Children with Asperger's syndrome typically function better than do those with
autism. In addition, children with Asperger's syndrome generally have normal intelligence and near-normal
language development, although they may develop problems communicating as they get older.
Asperger's syndrome was named for the Austrian doctor, Hans Asperger, who first described the disorder in
1944. However, Asperger's syndrome was not recognized as a unique disorder until much later.
What Are the Symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome?
The symptoms of Asperger's syndrome vary and can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms include:
Problems with social skills: Children with Asperger's syndrome generally have difficulty interacting with
others and often are awkward in social situations. They generally do not make friends easily. They have
difficulty initiating and maintaining conversation.
Eccentric or repetitive behaviors: Children with this condition may develop odd, repetitive movements, such
as hand wringing or finger twisting.
Unusual preoccupations or rituals: A child with Asperger's syndrome may develop rituals that he or she
refuses to alter, such as getting dressed in a specific order.
Communication difficulties: People with Asperger's syndrome may not make eye contact when speaking with
someone. They may have trouble using facial expressions and gestures, and understanding body language. They
also tend to have problems understanding language in context and are very literal in their use of language.
Limited range of interests: A child with Asperger's syndrome may develop an intense, almost obsessive,
interest in a few areas, such as sports schedules, weather, or maps.
Coordination problems: The movements of children with Asperger's syndrome may seem clumsy or awkward.
Skilled or talented: Many children with Asperger's syndrome are exceptionally talented or skilled in a
particular area, such as music or math.
What Causes Asperger's Syndrome?
The exact cause of Asperger's syndrome is not known. However, the fact that it tends to run in families suggests
that a tendency to develop the disorder may be inherited (passed on from parent to child). If one accepts the
conclusion that Asperger's syndrome is one of the autistic disorders, then the causes of Asperger's syndrome
would be expected to be the same as the causes of autism. The precise causes of autistic disorders have not been
identified, although an inherited (genetic) component is believed to be involved. Supporting this idea is the fact
that Asperger's syndrome has been observed to run in families. In some cases, autistic disorders may be related
to toxic exposures, teratogens, problems with pregnancy or birth, and prenatal infections. These environmental
influences may act together to modify or potentially increase the severity of the underlying genetic defect.
Some authors have suggested a causal role for vaccine exposure (particularly measles vaccine and thimerosal, a
mercury preservative used in some vaccines) in autism. However, the overwhelming majority of epidemiologic
evidence shows no evidence for an association between immunizations and autism, and experts have discredited
How Common Is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's syndrome has only recently been recognized as a unique disorder. For that reason, the exact number
of people with the disorder is unknown. While it is more common than autism, estimates for the United States
and Canada range from 1 in every 250 children to 1 in every 10,000. It is four times more likely to occur males
than in females and usually is first diagnosed in children between the ages of 2 and 6 years.
There are a wide variety of helpful treatments for Asperger’s Disorder that help an individual learn better social
skills and communication cues, to help them be able to interact socially more naturally. At present, like most
mental disorders, there is no “cure” for Asperger’s Disorder. But by focusing on learning ways to cope with the
symptoms and pick up on social cues, most individuals with Asperger’s Disorder lead fairly typical lives, with
close friends and loved ones.
Psychosocial Interventions for Asperger’s
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the ideal treatment for Asperger’s
coordinates therapies that address the three core symptoms of the disorder: poor communication skills,
obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. There is no single best treatment package for all
children with AS, but most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
An effective treatment program builds on the child’s interests, offers a predictable schedule, teaches tasks as a
series of simple steps, actively engages the child’s attention in highly structured activities, and provides regular
reinforcement of behavior. It may include social skills training, cognitive behavioral therapy, medication for coexisting conditions, and other measures.
Individual psychotherapy to help the individual learn social skills training, to better detect social cues,
and how to deal with the emotions surrounding the disorder
Parent education and training
Social skills training
For hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity: Psychostimulants (methyphenidate, dextroamphetamine,
metamphetamine), clonidine, Tricyclic Antidepressants (desipramine, nortriptyline), Strattera
For preoccupations, rituals and compulsions: SSRIs (fluvoxamine, fluoxetine, paroxetine), Tricyclic
For anxiety: SSRIs (sertraline, fluoxetine), Tricyclic Antidepressants (imipramine, clomipramine,
With effective treatment, children with Asperger’s disorder can learn to cope with their disabilities, but they
may still find social situations and personal relationships challenging. Many adults with AS are able to work
successfully in mainstream jobs, although they may continue to need encouragement and moral support to
maintain an independent life.