Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorders are brain disturbances that are more commonly being diagnosed. They appear about four times more often in boys than girls. They usually show up before the age of three, and, with no known environmental influence, occur throughout the world in families of all ethnic, racial and social backgrounds. There appears to be a genetic component, with about a fourfold increased risk of autism in siblings of children who have the disorder.

Autism is associated with a fault in the way the brain processes information. It regularly leads to an inability to develop normal communication and language skills. So, children with autism often fail to develop useful speech, and those who do develop it have trouble starting and keeping up conversations. Some do have distinct skills in certain areas, such as music or mathematics, but most have substantial difficulties with social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and behaviour.

Autism belongs to a group of related disorders called Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), including Asperger Syndrome and the rare
disorders in the group, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Asperger Syndrome is characterized by difficulties similar to autism, but children with this disorder are normally higher functioning, and symptoms may not appear until school age or later, although their social impairment may be significant. If a child has symptoms of autism or Asperger Syndrome, but does not meet the specific criteria for either, the diagnosis is called Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).

Early and accurate screening and diagnosis are extremely important when dealing with all autism spectrum disorders. Many children with autism and disorders in the spectrum are able to learn, especially if early diagnosis and intervention take place during the pre-school years.

There are many differences among children with autism and autism spectrum disorders, so the behaviour characteristics vary widely in terms of their degree and frequency.


  • Early intervention is key to managing the disorder and preventing further disability.
  • Get help from a qualified health practitioner, including a professional diagnosis. An accurate diagnosis will help to prevent any incorrect “labeling” of your child by others.
  • Obtain a second opinion if possible.
  • Find a support group for both you and your child, and exchange strategies.
  • Learn all you can about the disorder and educate your family and your child about the disorder.
  • Don’t compare your child to siblings or other children. Treat your child as a unique individual.
  • Re-evaluate and modify strategies as necessary. Work closely with your child’s teacher, doctor, and school team.

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