Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills. Autism is a physical condition linked to abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain. The exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown, but this is a very active area of research. There are probably a combination of factors that lead to autism.
Autism affects boys 3 - 4 times more often than girls. Family income, education, and lifestyle do not seem to affect the risk of autism.
Some doctors believe the increased incidence in autism is due to newer definitions of autism. The term "autism" now includes a wider spectrum of children. For example, a child who is diagnosed with high-functioning autism today may have been thought to simply be odd or strange 30 years ago.
Other pervasive developmental disorders include:
Asperger syndrome (like autism, but with normal language development)
Rett syndrome (very different from autism, and only occurs in females)
Childhood disintegrative disorder (rare condition where a child learns skills, then loses them by age 10)
- Pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), also called atypical autism
Key Point 1
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders. It varies widely in severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly effected children. Getting an accurate diagnosis requires a comprehensive evaluation from a multidisciplinary team.
Key Point 2
There is no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder but therapies and behavioral interventions can remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of individual children. Most healthcare professionals agree that the earlier you intervene, the better.
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Conduct an off-site search for Autism from MedlinePlus. These up-to-date search results are based on search terms specific to Second Opinion Key Points.
There are a very large number of organizations and websites dedicated to Autism. This is only a partial list.
Autism Society: The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS): The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to reduce the burden of neurological disease - a burden borne by every age group, by every segment of society, by people all over the world.
The University of Rochester Medical Center: One of the nation's top academic medical centers, the University of Rochester Medical Center forms the centerpiece of the University's health research, teaching, patient care, and community outreach missions.