Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills.
Autism is a physical condition linked to abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain. The exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown, but this is a very active area of research. There are probably a combination of factors that lead to autism.
Genetic factors seem to be important. For example, identical twins are much more likely than fraternal twins or siblings to both have autism. Similarly, language abnormalities are more common in relatives of autistic children. Chromosomal abnormalities and other nervous system (neurological) problems are also more common in families with autism.
Most parents of autistic children suspect that something is wrong by the time the child is 18 months old and seek help by the time the child is age 2. Children with autism typically have difficulties in:
Some children with autism appear normal before age 1 or 2 and then suddenly "regress" and lose language or social skills they had previously gained. This is called the regressive type of autism.
If your child is having trouble at school or at home and has been for a long time, ask his or her doctor about ADHD. Call 1-888-NYC-WELL (1-888-692-9355) for referrals to NYC resources.
Some of this information has been excerpted from the National Institute of Mental Health.