Childhood Disorders


Autism is a severe developmental disorder that affects the way a child sees and interacts with the rest of the world. It limits their ability to interact with others socially. In fact, many children/adults with autism avoid human contact. Autism is part of a larger group of disorders called Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). Autism is a developmental disability that comes from a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain. It is characterized by the abnormal development of communication skills, social skills, and reasoning. Males are affected four times as often as females. Children may appear normal until around the age of 30 months.

Symptoms of Autism vary widely in severity. They include impairment in social interaction, fixation on inanimate objects, inability to communicate normally, and resistance to changes in daily routine. Lack of eye contact, repetition of words or phrases, unmotivated tantrums, inability to express needs verbally, and insensitivity to pain, etc., are some of the characteristic traits of autism. Behaviors may change over time. Autistic children often have other disorders of brain function; about two thirds are mentally retarded; over one quarter develop seizures.

The causes of autism still remain unclear. A psychological cause has however been ruled out. Neurological studies seem to indicate a primary brain dysfunction, and a genetic component is suggested by a pattern of autism in some families. It is largely believed that autism is a genetic disorder that involves several genes related to gene function. However it is unclear to researchers what causes these genes to turn on.

Other Autism Spectrum Disorders

Asperger's Syndrome - A child with Asperger's disorder has the same problems as children with autism, but do not have language development problems.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder and not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) - This child has autism but doesn't meet the criteria for high functioning autism.

High-Functioning Autism - This child has autism but has normal learning and cognitive skills. Language development is difficult initially but they become proficient eventually. These high functioning autistic children generally exhibit some odd behavior, and have limited personal friends. Yet, with appropriate intervention,  many of these autistic behaviors can be positively changed. This is where a parent, needs to keep on, and not compromise their vision of their child's future. Parents who suspect autism in their child should ask their pediatrician to refer them to a child psychiatrist, who can accurately diagnose the syndrome, the degree of severity, and determine the appropriate educational measures. Autism is a serious, lifelong disability, which can be effectively managed with professional help.

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