Autism is a developmental disability that frequently arises during the first three years of a childs life. It may at times be called Childhood Autism, Early Infantile Autism, or Kanner's Autism. This is one of the developmental disorders that fall under the Pervasive Developmental Disorder or PDD as mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition.
Caused by a neurological disorder typically affecting the normal functioning of the brain, particularly those relating to social interaction and communication, children diagnosed with autism are often incapable of expressing themselves not only verbally but also non-verbally. They have troubles with social skills and show difficulties in engaging in leisure and play activities.
Interestingly, no two cases of autism are the same. With the varying degrees of autism, mild to severe, one childs prognosis may not be the same as anothers. This is why early diagnosis is important since there are cases where treatment is actually effective. The sooner a child can begin treatment procedures and have dedicated intervention, the better is the chance for minimization of the disorders impact.
Disorders under the umbrella term PDD disorders have similar characteristics. What differentiates autism from other developmental disorders is the marked impact on social interaction. Before a diagnosis of autism is made, grave impairments in the areas of communication and socialization should be observed. There should also be abnormal lack of interest in activities.
Impairment in social interactions may be exhibited through the presence of a problem with holding eye-to-eye contact, use of facial expressions, use of body postures and gestures. There is also a lack of response or interest in things. They do not share their feelings and opinions with other people. Impairment of communication, may be seen in the total lack or abnormal delay of spoken language development.
The lack will not be accompanied by frequent tries to use alternative methods of communication such as hand gestures. For children or adults with mild autism who can speak, they will display some problems initiating and sustaining conversation with other people. Children with autism also show little interest in make-believe play that should be present during certain developmental year levels.
Another behavioral condition of autism is an abnormal preoccupation with certain activities expressed in great intensity or focus. There is also some repetitive mannerisms such as flapping or twisting the hands.
It is crucial that autism be diagnosed early in life and that the diagnosis be done by qualified experts in the field. Any misdiagnosis can have impact on the child, not only in terms of undergoing treatment procedures but also in how people treat them.
Ideally, evaluation should be done by different individuals coming from different related fields. Examples of those who are qualified to make an evaluation are child psychologists, psychiatrists, speech pathologists, developmental pediatrician and neurologist. Parents and teachers may also contribute by sharing their observations of the childs behavior in school and at home.