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1.What is Autism?

Autism, is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the 
functioning of the brain. It is a complex developmental disability that 
appears typically during the first three years of life. It is placed under the broad heading "Pervasive Developmental Disorder" or PDD-which is a general category of disorders characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development.

Autism is a life-long developmental disability that prevents 
individuals from properly understanding what they see, hear, and otherwise sense. 
This results in severe problems in social relationships, communication, 
and behavior. 

Individuals with Autism have to painstakingly learn normal patterns of 
speech and communication, and appropriate ways of relating to people, 
objects, and events, in a similar manner to those who have had a stroke. 

2.What is the occurrence rate of Autism?

Autism is estimated to occur in as many as 1 in every 500 individuals and is four times more prevalent in boys than girls. It knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, and educational levels also do not play any part in the chance of Autism's occurrence. 

3.What causes Autism?

Scientists from all over the world are devoting considerable time and 
energy into finding the answer to this critical question. Medical 
researchers are exploring different explanations for the various causes of Autism. Although a single specific cause of Autism is not known, current research links Autism to biological or neurological differences in the brain. In many families there appears to be a pattern of Autism or related disabilities, which suggests that there is a genetic basis to the disorder, although at this time no gene has been directly linked to Autism. 
The genetic basis is believed by researchers to be highly complex, 
probably involving several genes in combination.

4.What are children with Autism like?

Children within the pervasive developmental disorder spectrum often 
appear relatively normal in their development until the age of 24-30 
months, when parents may notice delays in language, playing or social 
interaction. Any of the following delays, by themselves, would not result in a diagnosis of a pervasive developmental disorder. Autism is a combination of several developmental challenges. 
The following areas are among those that may be affected by autism: 


  • Language develops slowly or not at all
  • Uses words without attaching the usual meaning to them
  • Communicates with gestures instead of words
  • Short attention span
Social Interaction: 
  • Spends time alone rather than with others
  • Shows little interest in making friends
  • Less responsive to social cues such as eye contact or smiles
Sensory Impairment:

May have sensitivities in the areas of sight, hearing, touch, smell, 
and taste to a greater or lesser degree

Play Habits: 

  • Lack of spontaneous or imaginative play
  • Does not imitate others' actions
  • Does not initiate pretend games
  • May be either overactive or very passive
  • Throws tantrums for no apparent reason
  • Shows an obsessive interest in a single item, idea, activity or person
  • Apparent lack of common sense
  • May show aggression to others or self
  • Often has difficulty with changes in routine 

Some individuals with Autism also have other disorders which affect 
the functioning of the brain such as: Epilepsy, Mental Retardation, 
Down's syndrome, or genetic disorders such as: Fragile X Syndrome, 
Landau-Kleffner Syndrome, William's Syndrome or Tourette's Syndrome. Many of those diagnosed with Autism will test in the range of mental retardation. 

Approximately 25-30 percent of the patients may develop a seizure pattern at some period of their lives.

5.How is Autism Diagnosed?

There are no medical tests for diagnosing Autism. An accurate diagnosis 
must be based on observation of the child's communication, behavior, 
and developmental levels. However, because many of the behaviors 
associated with Autism are shared by other disorders, various medical tests may be ordered to rule out or identify other possible causes of the symptoms being seen.

Since the characteristics of the disorder vary so much, ideally a child 
should be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team which may include a 
neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language 
therapist, learning consultant, or another professional knowledgeable 
about Autism. Diagnosis is difficult for a practitioner with limited 
training or exposure to Autism. Autism has been misdiagnosed by well-meaning professionals. Difficulties in the recognition and 
acknowledgment of Autism often lead to a lack of services to meet the complex needs of individuals with autism.

6.Can children with Autism be helped?

Though it cannot be cured, Autism is certainly treatable. Studies show 
that children who have Autism improve significantly with proper instructions. Many children with Autism do become more responsive to others as they learn to understand the world around them. 

7.How can children with Autism learn best?
In order to help a child, it is important, not only to identify the 
presence of Autism, but also to arrange for therapeutic intervention. 
Children with Autism can learn to function at home and in the community through specially trained teachers, using specially structured programs 
that emphasize individual instructions. Some may be able to lead nearly 
normal lives. 

8.Can children with Autism go to a "normal school"?

In general, children with Autism perform best in closely supervised 
curriculum, which is structured, involve a degree of repetition and has 
small 'teacher:student' ratio.
Children who have undergone brief therapeutic intervention and have 
developed a few social skills benefit by attending a normal school setup. 
It is important to keep the transition from home to school or from 
centre to school smooth and less threatening for the child. It is also 
important to ensure that the school authorities and teachers are aware of and sensitive to the child's needs.

9.What hobbies can be cultivated by children with Autism?
Children who have Autism often enjoy the same recreational activities 
as other non-handicapped children. They usually like music, swimming, 
hiking, camping, working puzzles, playing table games, working on 
computers, etc. 

10.Are any organizations in India offering services for children with Autism?

The names and addresses of a few are given as follows:

Action for Autism 
T370 Chiragh Gaon, 3rd Floor
New Delhi 110 017
Telephone: 011 641 6469
Fax: 011 641 6470

Antarnad Foundation 
402, Shikhar, Nr. Vadilal House, 
Mithakhali Cross Roads, 
Telephone: 079 6462425 

Institute for Remedial Intervention Services(IRIS)
120 Defence Colony, 
Chennai 600032
Tamil Nadu.
Telephone: 044 2310968


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