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Autistic Children

Behaviors of Children With Autism

Autism is characterized by three distinctive behaviors. Autistic children:
  • Have difficulties with social interaction
  • Display problems with verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Exhibit repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests.
Some autistic children can function at a relatively high level, with speech and intelligence intact. Others have serious cognitive impairments and language delays, and some never speak.
In addition, children with autism may seem closed off and shut down, or locked into repetitive behaviors and rigid patterns of thinking. An infant with autism may avoid eye contact, seem deaf, and abruptly stop developing language skills. The child may act as if unaware of the coming and going of others, or physically attack and injure others without provocation. Infants with autism often remain fixated on a single item or activity, rock or flap their hands, seem insensitive to burns and bruises, and may even mutilate themselves.

What Causes Autism?

Scientists aren't certain what causes autism, but it's likely that both genetics and environment play a role.

Treatment for Autistic Children

There is no cure for autism. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement.
The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that target the core symptoms of autism: impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and obsessive or repetitive routines and interests. Most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.


For many children with autism, symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Some children grow up to lead normal or near-normal lives. Autistic children whose language skills regress early in life, usually before the age of 3, appear to be at risk of developing epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity.
During adolescence, some children with autism may become depressed or experience behavioral problems. Parents of these children should be ready to adjust treatment for their child as needed.
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