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Information about autism

What is autism?

Autism is a complex neurological disorder that usually appears during the first three years of life. People with autism process and respond to information in unique ways. Most children with autism have:

What causes autism?

No one knows. Researchers all over the world are looking for the answer.

We do know that autism is not caused by the way a child is raised. There may be a physical cause which affects the development of parts of the brain. There are many theories as to why this might happen. Theories include genetics, viruses, poor immune system, chromosome abnormalities and pollutants.

How common is it?

Are there different kinds of autism?

When using the term Autism Spectrum Disorders, most professionals are referring to the subset of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) that includes:

Autistic Disorder is considered to be at the more severe end of the spectrum.

What are the characteristics of autism?

People with autism process and respond to information in unique ways. They can show a wide variety of symptoms and characteristics, from mild to severe. Even if they have the same disorder, they can act very differently from one another and have very different skills. Here are some of the characteristics of autism:

How is autism diagnosed?

There is no medical test for autism and you can't tell if a child has autism just by looking at him.

Because autism is a complex condition, assessments are usually done by a team of professionals, such as a speech-language pathologist, development pediatrician, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. To diagnose autism, they watch the child's behaviour and ask parents about the child's development.

What you can do if you think your child may have autism

If you think that your child has autism, your first step is to talk to your family doctor. Your doctor will do an assessment or refer you to another professional (for example, a psychologist) for an assessment and diagnosis.