Characteristics and symptoms in patients with autism - Tips from Other Journals

Author: Kathryn M. Andolsek
Date: Feb 15, 1998

In the United States, autism may affect up to 115,000 children between one and 15 years of age, but its prevalence in adults is uncertain. Classic autism is one of a group of development disorders in which a wide variety of behaviors and activities are demonstrated that collectively are known as pervasive development disorder (see the accompanying table on criteria for autistic disorder). Certain biologic conditions and/or genetic factors appear to be associated with the development of autism, but no specific cause has been identified. Multiple members of a family may be affected, but currently no common genetic defect is observable in affected children. Rapin reviewed the many manifestations of autism, principal symptoms, therapies and prognosis.

Criteria for Autistic Disorder(*)A total of six or more manifestations from 1, 2 and 3below:1 . Qualitative impairment of social interaction (at least twomanifestations) a. Marked impairment in the use of multiple types of nonverbalbehavior such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posturesand gestures to regulate social interactions; b. Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate todevelopment level; c. Lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests orachievements with other people (e.g., by lack of showing, bringingor pointing out objects of interest); and d. Lack of social or emotional reciprocity.2. Qualitative impairment of communication (at least onemanifestation) a. Delay in, or lack of, development of spoken language (notaccompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modesof communication such as gestures or mime); b. In individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in theability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others; c. Stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncraticlanguage; and d. Lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or socialimitative play appropriate to development level.3. Restrictive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests andactivities (at least one behavior manifestation) a. Encompassing preoccupation with one or more restricted,repetitive and stereotyped patterns of interest that is abnormaleither in intensity or focus; b. Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctionalroutines or rituals; c. Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand orfinger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements); and d. Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.Delays or abnormal functioning, with onset before the age of threeyears, in at least one of the following areas: Social interaction; Language as used in social communication; and Symbolic or imaginative play.A determination that Rett's disorder or childhood disintegrativedisorder does not account better for the observed symptoms.

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