Head | Neurology | Autism (Disease)
Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by damage social interaction and communication, and by reduce and repetitive behavior. Autism affects the brain processing information by altering the connection and organization between nerve cells and their synapses; however, this process is not well understood. The degree of autism varies from mild to severe.
Children with autism typically have difficulties in: pretend play, social interactions: does not make friends, may not respond to eye contact or smiles, or may avoid eye contact, prefers to spend time alone, rather than with others, shows a lack of empathy and verbal and nonverbal communication: cannot start or maintain a social conversation, develops language slowly or not at all, repeats words or memorized passages, such as commercials.
Causes and Risk factors
The exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown, but this is a very active area of research. There are probably combinations of factors that lead to autism. Genetic factors seem to be important. A number of other possible causes have been suspected, but not proven they involve: diet, digestive tract changes, mercury poisoning, and the bodys inability to properly use vitamins and minerals and vaccine sensitivity.
Autism: Treatment and Diagnosis
Diagnosis is based on behavior, not cause or mechanism. An evaluation of autism will often include a complete physical and nervous system examination.
Treatment is most successful when it is geared toward the childs particular needs. A variety of therapies are available, including: applied behavior analysis; medications; occupational therapy; physical therapy; speech-language therapy