Child autism is a brain disorder that often results in a lifetime of impaired thinking, feeling, and social functioning -- our most uniquely human attributes. Typically, autism affects a child's ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the external world. The disorder becomes apparent in children generally by the age of three.
Child autism is characterized by three distinctive behaviors. Autistic children:
Impaired social interaction.
The hallmark symptom of autism is impaired social interaction. Parents are usually the first to notice possibly symptoms in their child.
As early as infancy, a baby with autism symptoms may be unresponsive to people or focus intently on one item to the exclusion of others for long periods of time. A child with autism may appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.
Problems with verbal and nonverbal communication.
The second most common symptom of autism is problems with verbal and nonverbal communication.
Children with autism may fail to respond to their name and often avoid eye contact with other people. They have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can't understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions.
Obsessive or repetitive routines and interests.
Many children with symptoms of autism engage in repetitive movements, such as rocking and twirling, or in self-abusive behavior, such as biting or head-banging. They also tend to start speaking later than other children and may refer to themselves by name instead of "I" or "me."
Children with autism don't know how to play interactively with other children. Some speak in a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking. They lack empathy. Most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
Reduced and/or increased sensitivity.
Many children with autism have a reduced sensitivity to pain, but are abnormally sensitive to sound, touch, or other sensory stimulation. These unusual reactions may contribute to behavioral symptoms, such as a resistance to being cuddled or hugged.
Reference: The Autism Society