The word “autism” comes from the Greek word “autos,” which means “self.” It describes conditions in which a person is removed from social interaction. In other words, he becomes an “isolated self.”
Autism is a complex neurobehavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors. Because of the range of symptoms, this condition is now called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It covers a large spectrum of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can look different in different people. It’s a developmental disability that affects the way people communicate, behave, or interact with others. There’s no single cause for it, and symptoms can be very mild or very severe.
Some children who are on the spectrum start showing signs as young as a few months old. Others seem to have normal development for the first few months or years of their lives and then they start showing symptoms.
But up to half of parents of children with ASD noticed issues by the time their child reached 12 months and between 80% and 90% noticed problems by 2 years. Children with ASD will have symptoms throughout their lives, but it’s possible for them to get better as they get older.
The autism spectrum is very wide. Some people might have very noticeable issues, others might not. Children with autism have trouble communicating. They have trouble understanding what other people think and feel. This makes it very hard for them to express themselves either with words or through gestures, facial expressions, and touch. About 40% of kids with autism spectrum disorders don’t talk at all, and between 25% and 30% develop some language skills during infancy but then lose them later. Some children with ASD start talking later in life.
Most have some problems with communication, including these:
- Delayed speech and language skills
- Flat, robotic speaking voice, or singsong voice
- Echolalia (repeating the same phrase over and over)
- Problems with pronouns (saying “you” instead of “I,” for example)
- Not using or rarely using common gestures (pointing or waving), and not responding to them
- Inability to stay on topic when talking or answering questions
- Not recognizing sarcasm or joking
A child with ASD has a hard time interacting with others. Problems with social skills are some of the most common signs. He might want to have close relationships but not know how.
If your child is on the spectrum, he might show some social symptoms by the time he’s 8 to 10 months old. These may include any of the following:
- He can’t respond to his name by his first birthday.
- Playing, sharing, or talking with other people doesn’t interest him.
- He prefers to be alone.
- He avoids or rejects physical contact.
- When he’s upset, he doesn’t like to be comforted.
- He doesn’t understand emotions — his own or others’.