In a child, autism typically affects the ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the external world. Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have autism. While there is no cure for this condition, symptoms can improve with treatment and with age. Some affected people grow up to lead normal or near-normal lives.
What Is Child Autism?Child autism is a brain disorder that often results in a lifetime of impaired thinking, feeling, and social functioning -- our most uniquely human attributes. Typically, autism affects a child's ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the external world. The disorder becomes apparent in children generally by the age of three.
Child autism (sometimes called "classical autism") is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as autism spectrum disorders.
Other autism spectrum disorders include:
- Asperger syndrome
- Rett syndrome
- Childhood disintegrative disorder
- Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS).
Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have child autism. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females. Girls with autism tend to have more severe symptoms and greater cognitive impairment.
Common Behaviors Seen With Child AutismChild autism is characterized by three distinctive behaviors. Autistic children:
- Display problems with verbal and nonverbal communication
- Have difficulties with social interaction
- Exhibit repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests.
Some children with autism 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, individuals with child 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. The child may act as if unaware of the coming and going of others, or physically attack and injure others without provocation. These infants 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.