What is Autism? Part One

This is the first part of this series on Autism. Today we are going to talk about What Autism is.  Since it is such a broad category and the symptoms are very important to understand. This is where we will spend our time today.  In Part Two we will look at the causes, the diagnosis, and the management of Autism.


Autism has been a word that has been used in the media so much over the past several years. But do you really know what Autism is?  Are your children at risk of getting Autism and is Autism on the rise?  These are great questions.  Now let’s take a look.

Autism is a Development Disorder

Really this is means a neurodevelopment disorder.

On a basic level, autism is a behavioral issue.  You will notice that children with this condition have difficulty functioning with other children. The problem is that there is a large range of symptoms. You may not even know that someone has Autism because their symptoms may be very mild.

It often deals with the repetitive movements or restricted social behaviors. Both can be seen in some degree.

It can become seen in children during infancy or during childhood.  Often, changes are seen between six months of age and three years. Though changes can really be seen at any age.

There is not one symptom that defines this disease. It is more of a collection of symptoms or evaluations.

Main Symptoms

1.)     Problems with Social Interactions

This may mean that the child doesn’t react in a social setting as other children do. They may have less stimuli with other children.

They may smile less often than expected and they may avoid eye contact or have limited eye contact.  In some cases, pointing at things may be a problem.

They may avoid talking with other children or a normal quizzical behavior. They prefer to be left alone, but not always.

Speech is often affected. Sentence structure or communication is a problem.

Babbling, slow speech, confused speech, unrecognizable gestures, voice pattern changes, screaming, and other speech problems can be seen.

2.)     Repetitive Behavior

Several types of repetitive behaviors can be seen.  No one child may have all the repetitive behavior or the exact behavior seen. But often, a similar or exact behavior can be identified.

Hand flapping or banging occurs often.  Head rolling to one side or the other. This happens over and over again as if a game.  A large percentage of the time, the child will rock their body back and forth. It could be torso, head, arms, or legs. Often though, it is the entire body.

They may arrange items according to size, color, lines,

Also seen is a desire to have a pattern in their day.  This means that they prefer the same chores, processes to get ready for the day and more.

An aspect of Repetitive behavior that can become a real problem is self-injury.  This happens repetitively.  They will start biting their hand over and over again. They can also bang their head again and again.

This can also be seen with picking of skin, poking an eye, kicking a foot.

These self-injuries behaviors seem to affect just under fifty percent of those with Autism.

3.)     Restricted Interests

There is a sense of sameness. This means that there is a huge resistance to change. This can be seen in changing schools, vacations, moving, or even day to day things like where furniture is positioned in the room and other more basic things.

Preoccupation is another thing that is seen. This means that their attention gets grabbed by a certain object, toy, game, or television program.  They become so preoccupied that they only want that toy or object. They lose focus or interest in other things for a period.

4.)     Others

This area is far more difficult.  Often it is difficult to say that a particular behavior is or isn’t an aspect of Autism. It could be just something they are going through at the time, or something unique to the child.

Abilities – this area is not a given. Some children with less affecting autism may have some ability. It is estimated to affect somewhere between 1 percent and 10 percent of those with Autism.  A sub category of Autism is Asperger’s. Abilities are found liked with this diagnosis in some cases.

An ability could be memorization, math extraordinaire,  musical instrument, and many other rare talents. In many cases these individuals are called Savants.

Other symptoms may include: muscle loss, difficulty walking, unusual eating patterns, stomach problems, and others.



Autism falls under the category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders or PDD.

There are five disorders

1.)     Autism
2.)     Asperger Syndrome
3.)     Rett Syndrome
4.)     Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
5.)     PDD not otherwise specified

Stay tune to Part Two to look at:  the causes, the diagnosis, and the management of Autism.

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