Autism may affect as many as 1 in every 150 children, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.

Symptoms of Autism produce significant impairments in social, communicative, cognitive and behavioral functioning that are classified as a severe neurodevelopmental disorder that can be detected in a child’s first 3 years. According to Steven Moldin, Ph.D., research professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine, these symptoms typically last through a personšs lifetime. Many scientists believe that both genes and environmental factors play a role in the development of autism, but to date no specific genetic or environmental risk factor has been clearly established as a cause of the condition, Moldin says.

There are no cures for autism, but various treatment options, such as occupational therapy, dietary restrictions, sensory integration therapy and speech therapy can change the course of the disorder. These sessions will include highly structured educational programs aimed at improving communication and social skills. The earlier the therapy and treatment begins the greater chance of a positive effect on long-term outcome.

Early warning signs to look for include:
-- losing or not having speech around 18 months
-- little to no eye contact
-- loss or lack of gestures
-- repetitive speech or actions
-- unusual reactions to the way things look, feel, smell, taste or sound
If you suspect your child may be autistic, please seek out an autism expert or a developmental disorders medical center, hospital or program.

Information provided by:
Medical News Today: Understanding Autism