Autism is a life long developmental disability, the result of a neurological disorder affecting the functioning of the brain.
Usually diagnosed during the first 3 years of life, and accurate diagnosis requires a team of professionals, which may include a pediatrician, child psychologist, speech therapist and occupational therapist, among others.
The prevalence rate of 1 of every 150 makes autism one of the most common developmental disabilities affecting 500,000 individuals in the United States alone. Autism occurs 4 times more frequently in males than females, and frequently occurs in association with other disorders that affect the functioning of the brain, such as epilepsy or metabolic disturbances.
Interferes with speech, learning and social skills development. Echolalia is a common characteristic of autism – the person with autism echoes the words and phrases of others instead of forming his/her own.
Symptoms can include any combination of the following:
- Abnormal responses to sensations, such as touch or hearing.
- Unusual ways of relating to people, objects or events.
- Disturbances in the rate of appearance of physical, social and language skills. Delays in language development are common.
- Resistance to change.
- Lack of spontaneous or imaginative play.
- Difficulties with skilled motor functions.
- Social withdrawal.
Manifests as a spectrum disorder. Individuals with autism may display characteristics of the disorder that range from mild to severe.