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Dr. Vijayakumar D.R MBBS, DPM, DNB (NIMHANS), CCST (UK)
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What is autism?

Autism belongs to a group of disorders called pervasive developmental disorders which is of early onset in which the person suffers from abnormalities in the development of social interaction, communication and behavioural issues.

How frequent is autism?

About 4 to 5 children per 10000 suffer from autism. Some research quote higher figures.  It is seen more in males than females.

What is the cause for Autism?

A lot of research has implicated various reasons for autism

  1. Genetic factors play a role as shown by twin studies.
  2. Medical causes : Neurological infections like meningitis ( infection of the covering of the brain) , rubella infections and decreased oxygen to the brain ( perinatal asphyxia) can lead to autism. 35 to 50 % of children with autism suffer from seizures.

What are the symptoms of autism ?

Symptoms of autism are

1.   Impairment in social interactions as indicated by

a.  Marked impairment in the use of multiple non verbal behaviours such as eye to eye contact, facial expression, body postures and gestures to regulate social interactions.

b.  Failure to develop peer  relationship ( friends ) appropriate to developmental level

c.  A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests or achievements with other people.

d.  Lack of social or emotional reciprocity

2.   Impairment in communication as indicated by

a.  Delay or lack of development of spoken language

b.  Marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain conversation with others

c.  Repeated gestures and actions and repeated use of language

d.  Lack of varied spontaneous make believe play or social imitation play appropriate for the developmental level

3.   Restricted repetitive and stereotyped pattern of behaviour or interests and activities as manifested by

a.  Hand or finger flapping

b.  Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

c.  Having repeated rituals

4.   Onset prior to age 3

What is the course of autism?

   Although the outcome of autism is improving, autism is a lifelong disability. About 20 % of autistic individuals become adults and are able to function with independence and self reliance.  New research in autism is being done which may help the individuals in future.

What is the treatment for autism?

   Main treatment for Autism is behaviour therapy.  Parents will also need extensive therapy in order to help the child.

Medications will be prescribed depending upon the problem presented.