Autism typically manifests itself by age three, and it is a developmental disorder characterized by inability to effectively communicate. In fact, an early sign of autism is a delay or even a total lack of development of spoken language skills.
Autism is considered to be a spectrum disorder which means it consists of a wide range or spectrum of disorders involving impaired communication and social interaction skills. This spectrum includes five different types of autism that all have similar symptoms, but are still different from each other. See also aspergers in toddlers
Kanner’s Autism is the most common of these neurodevelopmental disorders and may affect one child out of every 166 children. Kanner’s Autism may also be called Autistic Disorder, Childhood Autism or Early Infantile Autism. Symptoms include impairment of nonverbal behaviors like eye-to-eye contact during social interactions and stereotypical repetitive behaviors such as finger flapping and hand twisting.
Another type of autism is called Rett Syndrome (RS) that is very rare and affects females almost exclusively.
It is estimated that only one out of approximately 10,000 to 15,000 youngsters are affected.
In RS, the baby develops normally until an age between 6 and 18 months when an early sign of autism may appear. The child will regress and lose any words she may have picked up. She will no longer have any desire to cuddle, and she pulls back from social contact. The child typically wrings her hands and cannot control her feet. Normal head growth will decelerate between 5 and 48 months of age and impaired language development is accompanied by severe psychomotor retardation.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development was responsible for sponsoring a team of scientists who discovered that RS is caused by a single gene mutation. This information may help develop screening methods so that health care professionals can begin treatment much sooner which will substantially improve the child’s quality of life.
Another type of autism is Aspergers Syndrome (AS) that is regarded as a higher functioning type of autism. In fact, many people with AS lead functional and independent lives although they are awkward in social situations.
Physical clumsiness is an early sign of autism of this type as are a lack of empathy with their peer group and a lack of nonverbal communication skills.
Other types of autism include Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD).
Parents should be aware that an early sign of autism can include a delay in language development, repetitive movements such as twirling objects or hand flapping, lack of eye contact, lack of pretend play and obsessive attachment to objects. Dozens of other characteristics may be found online if you suspect something may be wrong with your child.