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An Introduction to the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

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Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) , is a range of complex neuro-development disorders. Characteristics of the spectrum disorder may include the following:

· Social impairments

· Communication difficulties

· Repetitive patterns of behavior

Experts at the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html) have estimated that 1 out of 68 children will have an autism spectrum disorder, and males outnumber females 5 to 1.

The hallmark feature of ASD is impaired social interaction. Infants may appear indifferent to social engagement. Children may fail to respond to their names and avoid eye contact with other people. Additionally, children may engage in repetitive movements such as rocking and twirling, or in self-abusive behaviors such as biting or head banging.

Autism is diagnosed based on a screening of a child’s development and behavior. These screenings can involve input from both parent observations as well as doctor observations. A comprehensive evaluation will require a multidisciplinary team, often including specialists such as psychologists, neurologists, speech therapists, and psychiatrists. Underlying medical conditions (such as hearing disorders, seizures, learning disabilities and more need to be ruled out before a diagnosis of autism is given). Autism is treated with various therapies and behavioral interventions. Medications may be ordered as well. Although autism isn’t “curable”, early intervention and treatment can minimize the effects of the disorder.

For more information on autism, contact Autism Speaks, Inc. @ www.autismspeaks.org and the Autism Society of America @ www.autism-society.org.

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