Information on Symptoms, Diagnosing and Treating Autism

Autism is a disorder associated with a range of developmental problems, chiefly in communication and social interaction. There are a number of signs and symptoms to look for if you suspect a child may be autistic. They range from severe symptoms such as lack of speech and social interaction with others, to less-noticeable signs such as lining items up in a specific order or preoccupation with certain subjects. There are degrees of severity in autism, with the most severe being in people who cannot communicate at all with others and who appear to be in their own world, to those who have interaction with others but not to the degree that is considered "normal." This article will cover basic information on the symptoms and diagnosis of autism, treatment for this disorder, and how to live with autism. We cannot hope to provide you with all the information you need in one article, but we can point you in the direction for more help in this area. This is a vastly complicated ailment, affecting many children, teens and adults. There is no cure, but there is help and hope.

Signs and Symptoms

Autism is generally diagnosed by a child's third birthday, and based on many factors which include:

Lack of social relationships with peers, lack of nonverbal communication skills such as eye contact, facial expressions and body posture.

Verbal and nonverbal communication skills such as lack of speech, difficulty in starting and carrying on a conversation, repetitive use of a word or phrase, difficulty understanding other persons perspective during a conversation.

Difficulties with social and play skills as in lining up toys a certain way, focus on parts of a toy or certain toys, preoccupation with certain topics, and a need for routine in all aspects of their life. And we can't forget the classic symptoms of body rocking and hand flapping


Autism symptoms and manifestations vary widely; for this reason diagnosis isn't always easy. You may see signs of autism by age 18 months, but formal diagnosis isn't usually made until age 2 or 3, when lack of social and verbal skills are more prevalent. Diagnosis before age 3 is important, as the earlier the better when it comes to possibilities in improvement over the coming years. To reach a diagnosis, your child may need to undergo developmental tests for language, speech, and other psychological issues. While there are no medical tests that can lead to a diagnosis of autism, your child may undergo physical exams to rule out other possible reasons for these symptoms, such as hearing tests or tests for lead poisoning.

Treatment for Autism

While there is no cure for autism, there are some things that can be done to make this illness less severe, for both the child and those who live with him. Your doctor should be able to help you locate resources in your area to help with treatment. Treatment plans may include:

Behavior and Communication Therapy. Programs have been developed to help with the social, language, and behavioral aspects of autism. Some focus on reducing behavioral problems by teaching new skills; others focus on teaching better language and communication skills.

Drug Therapies. There are no known medications to cure the core causes of autism, but if the child has other disorders such as ADD or ADHD, repetitive or aggressive behavior problems, there are medications to help with these behavior problems, which may also help with some of the autism symptoms.

Complimentary Approaches. These include such things as art and music therapy, diets, and vitamin and mineral therapy. While there is no scientific proof that these treatments work, many have reported excellent results in employing these approaches.

For More Information

It's estimated that out of 160 births, one child will be afflicted with autism. There are many studies going on right now to try to determine the cause of autism and the best treatments for it. For now, the best way to cope is to learn as much as you can about this condition, including how to help the autistic child get along with the people in his world. We have put together a number of sources for additional information, including books and web sites. has a large section devoted to autism. HANS, or the Help Autism Now Society is another good online source for information and support.,, and The Autism Society of America have informative web sites dedicated to this disorder. Books you may find useful include, but aren't limited to "Targeting Autism: What We Know, Don't Know, and Can do to Help Young Chilren With Autism and Related Disorders", by Shirley Cohen; "The World of the Autistic Child: Understanding and Treating Autistic Spectrum Disorders", and "Autism: Preparing for Adulthood" by Patricia Howlin.

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