10 quick autism facts

What is autism, who gets it and how would you know if your child were autistic?

10 quick facts

  • Autism is a developmental disorder that causes a wide variety of abnormalities in social skills, language skills and behaviour in people.
  • These become apparent because of delays or regression in development.
  • According to most studies, autism occurs in 10 to 20 people out of every 10 000.
  • The condition is mostly diagnosed or recognised when children are between 18 and 30 months of age and boys are four times more likely to be affected than girls.
  • Most children with autism are healthy and have no apparent medical reason for their symptoms.
  • Autistic children seem to have a lack of attachment to their caregivers, they play alone, they have little or no interest in human contact and they fail to form normal human relationships. They avoid eye contact, don't respond to their own names and resist being held.
  • Autistic children start to speak later than other children and their speech is immature and unimaginative. They often speak in a sing-song voice.
  • Autistic children sometimes perform bizarre or repetitive movements, such as rocking, finger twiddling, head banging or staring. They often develop compulsive routines or rituals. They can become enraged by minor changes in their environment or routine.
  • An autistic child may have all, or only some of the symptoms listed above.
  • Early and persistent intervention has led to some success in the treatment of autism. Intense behavioural therapy could lead to greatly improved functioning in autistic children. Medications used to treat autism often affect the levels of serotonin, the brain chemical responsible for mood.

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