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Autism is a disorder that causes impaired thinking, social functioning, and feeling. Some children with the condition can function at a relatively high level, with speech and intelligence intact, and others may have serious cognitive impairments and language delays, while some never speak.
A child with autism may seem closed off and shut down, or locked into repetitive behaviors and rigid patterns of thinking. An infant may avoid eye contact, seem deaf, and abruptly stop developing language.
In most cases, autism becomes apparent in children by the age of three. Treatment is focused on targeting the core symptoms. Generally, treatment will involve different types of therapies and behavioral interventions. For many children, symptoms also improve with age.
(For more detailed information, click Autism. This full-length article looks at specific symptoms, current statistics on the prevalence of this condition, and whether it is more likely to occur in boys or girls.)