by Drs. Like Wu, Xiaojuan Wang and Bo Cheng
Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior. The diagnostic criteria require that symptoms become apparent before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; it is unknown how this occurs. It is one of three recognized disorders in the autism spectrum (ASDs), the other two being Asperger syndrome, which lacks delay in cognitive development and language, and pervasive developmental disorde, not otherwise specified (commonly abbreviated as PDD-NOS), which is the diagnosis when the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met.
Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child´s life. The signs usually develop gradually, but some autistic children first begin to develop normally and then regress. Early behavioral, cognitive, or speech interventions can help autistic children gain self-care, social, and communication skills. Not many children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, though some become successful. An autistic culture has developed, with some individuals seeking a cure and others believing autism should be accepted as a difference and not treated as a disorder.
Autism is a highly variable neurodevelopmental disorder that first appears during infancy or childhood, and generally follows a steady course without remission. Overt symptoms gradually begin after the age of six months, become established by the age of two or three, and tend to continue through adulthood, although often in a more muted form. It is distinguished not by a single symptom, but by a characteristic triad of symptoms: impairments in social interaction; impairments in communication; and restricted interests and repetitive behavior. Other aspects, such as atypical eating, are also common but are not essential for diagnosis.