Autism is a broad term for different disorders that are connect to the development of the brain. These disorders have certain characteristics such as:
- Difficulties in social interaction
- Verbal and nonverbal communication
- Repetitive behaviors
Doctors first categorized Autism characteristics into multiple subtypes that covered autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. Then in May of 2013 the disorders where merged together under the umbrella of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
One of the classic signs of Autism is impaired social interaction. A baby can be unresponsive to people or may focus solely on one particular item for long periods of time. They may seem to be developing normally except when it comes to social interactions.
The child will then fail to respond to their name and will generally avoid eye contact. They have a hard time figuring out what people are thinking or feeling because they lack the understanding that comes with voice tones or facial expressions. They may also lack empathy.
Some of the early symptoms that doctors and parents can look for in a child that they suspect has ASD are:
- The child does not babble by age 1
- The child does not speak in single word from by 16 months or in two word phrases by age 2
- The child does not respond to their name
- The child has a loss in language
- The child has poor eye contact
- The child does not smile
Some of the later clues that a child has autism are:
- The child has a difficult time making friends
- The child struggles to make or keep conversation going with others
- The child does not have imaginative or social play
- The child uses unusual or repetitive language
- The child is extremely preoccupied with certain objects or subjects
- The child has a strict routine
As of right know doctors are not sure what causes autism. Doctors and scientists that genetic and environmental conditions are the likely causes of ASD. They have found a number of genes that are associated with Autism. Some studies have shown that there are irregularities in several areas of the brain in people with ASD. Other studies have shown that ASD is linked to having abnormal levels or serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. All these studies have suggested that ASD may be caused by a disruption in normal brain development, but it still requires further study.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 1 in 88 children have ASD in America and that this has increased in the past 40 years. They have also found that Autism is about 5 times more common in boys, 1 in 54 boys compared to 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed every year.