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Autism is a developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate, understand language, play, and interact with others. Autism is a behavioral syndrome, which means that its definition is based on patterns of behaviors that a person exhibits. Autism is not an illness or a disease.  “Autism is a neurological disability that is presumed to be present from birth and is always apparent before the age of three. Although autism affects the functioning of the brain, the specific cause of autism is unknown. In fact, it is widely assumed that there are most likely multiple causes, each of which may be manifested in different forms, or subtypes, of autism.

The encyclopedia describes autism as a disorder in development that usually begins before the age of four, characterized especially by an inability to relate socially to others. This means that their mind is all mixed up. The word autism was first used in the English language by Swiss psychiatrist Eugene Bleuler in a 1912 issue of the American Journal of Insanity. It comes from the Greek word for “self”. It is used to describe the schizophrenic’s seeming difficulty in connecting with other people.  “Autism is a disorder that predominantly affects males (four times as many males as females have autism).

Although there is no question that more clinical cases are being detected, the increase in the prevalence of autism is in dispute as diagnostic practices have changed over the years and this heightened awareness has changed the evaluation of previously unrecognized cases. There are five types of autism. The five Pervasive Developmental Disorders are Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (or “PDD-NOS”), Rett’s Disorder and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. The causes of autism are unknown, although they are related to neurological and biological abnormalities in brain functioning. There is no cure for autism, but appropriate treatments can have a positive impact on the child’s development.

It is not a progressive disorder and does not worsen as a child grows up. Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls and knows no racial, ethnic, social, or economic boundaries. Within the areas of commonality, children with autism exhibit an individualized and distinctive combination of strengths and needs.  Symptoms of autism usually appear during the first three years of childhood and continue throughout life. Some common symptoms are Absence or impairment of imaginative and social play, impaired ability to make friends with peers, impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others, stereotyped, repetitive, or unusual use of language, restricted patterns of interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus.

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