Autistic disorder (sometimes called autism or classical ASD) is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, display problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and exhibit repetitive behaviours or narrow, obsessive interests. These behaviours can range in impact from mild to disabling. Autism varies widely in its severity and symptoms and may go unrecognised, especially in mildly affected children or when more debilitating handicaps mask it. Scientists aren’t certain what causes autism, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role.
Is there any treatment for autism?
There is no cure for autism. Therapies and behavioural interventions are designed to 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. Treatment options include educational/behavioural interventions, medications, and other therapies. Most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
What is the prognosis for autism?
For many children, autism symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Some children with autism grow up to lead normal or near-normal lives. Children whose language skills regress early in life, usually before the age of three, appear to be at risk of developing epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. During adolescence, some children with autism may become depressed or experience behavioural problems. Parents of these children should be ready to adjust treatment for their child as needed. People with an ASD usually continue to need services and support as they get older but many are able to work successfully and live independently or within a supportive environment.
The material on this page “Disorders - Autism” has been used with the kind permission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/autism.htm