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What is Autism?

Diagnosis and Coming to Terms with Autism


The Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), commonly known as autism is a disability in development that affects how a person communicates and relates to people around them. Children and adults with autism have difficulties with social interaction of everyday life. Their capacity to develop friendships is generally limited, as their ability to understand the emotional expression of others. People with autism can often have learning disabilities, and all share a difficulty in relation to the world around them. There is also a condition called Asperger’s Syndrome, which in turn is a form of autism used to describe people who are normally in the high performance of the autistic spectrum.

Autism is a term to describe the excess and or behavioral deficits in three key areas that are known as the triad of limitations:

1.   Social Interaction (difficulty with social relationships, for example seem distant and indifferent to other people, like to be alone);

2.    Social Communication (difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication, for example, do not fully understand the meaning of common gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice);

3.   Imagination (difficulty in the development of interpersonal play and imaginary, for example, have limited imaginative activities, possibly copied and developed in a rigid and repetitive).

In addition to this triad, are also common features some behaviors and resistance to changes in routine. Perhaps the most distressing feature of autism is the emergence of challenging behaviors and inappropriate. For example, self-aggressive behaviors and tantrums.

What Causes Autism?

The exact cause or exact causes of autism is / are still unknown, but research shows that genetic factors are important. It is also evident from research that autism may be associated with various conditions affecting brain development which occur before, during or shortly after birth.

Autism and other autistic spectrum disorders are defined as syndromes of behavior that are generally considered to have a neurobiological origin (related to the biology of the nervous system). Autism is NOT caused by bad parenting practices!

Signs to Look Out for

The signs of ASD arise in the early years, usually around 14-18 months. Every child has a different pace of development. Children are amazing and during normal development present a number of behaviors considered abnormal.

Um bom ponto de partida é a escala ‘Modified Checklist for autism in Toddlers’ (M-CHAT; Robins, Fein, & Barton, 1999)

A good starting point is the scale ‘Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers’ (M-CHAT, Robins, Fein, & Barton, 1999) It is available for free download for clinical purposes, research, and education. There are two approved sites: the M-CHAT and supplemental materials can also be downloaded Dr. Robins website;

Visit our section Getting Diagnosed for more information.