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AUTISM | Print |

The information below is reprinted from the website WebMD.  If you wish to learn more about Autism, please visit their website at www.webmd.com.  If you have concerns about your child's behavioral health and wish to talk with someone, or have your child undergo an evaluation, please contact the Fulton County Oak Hill Child, Adolescent & Family Center at (404) 612-4111. 

The facility provides behavioral health services to youth between the ages of 0 to 21 years old, and is operated by the Fulton County Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities.   Below is information on Autism from the WebMD website:


Kid with videogame

According to WebMD, autism is a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), a group of illnesses that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize or form relationships with others as well as the ability to use imagination (including fantasy play).  Children with autism and related disorders are often confused in their thinking and generally have problems understanding the world around them.


In addition to problems with social interaction, imagination, and communication, children with autism also have a limited range of interests.  Many children with autism (nearly 75%) also have mental retardation.  In many cases, children with autism are unable emotionally to bond with their parents or other family members.


According to WebMD, symptoms of autism typically appear before a child is three years old and last throughout life.  Children with autism can display a wide range of symptoms, which can vary in severity from mild to disabling.  General symptoms may include the following:

  • Difficulty with verbal communication, including problems using and understanding language
  • Inability to participate in a conversation, even when the child has the ability to speak
  • Difficulty with non-verbal communication, such as gestures and facial expressions
  • Difficulty with social interaction, including relating to people and to his or her surroundings
  • Inability to make friends and preferring to play alone
  • Unusual ways of playing with toys and other objects, such as only lining them up in a certain way
  • Lack of imagination
  • Difficulty adjusting to changes in routine or familiar surroundings, or an unreasonable insistence on following routines in detail
  • Repetitive body movements, or patterns of behavior, such as hand flapping, spinning, and head banging
  • Preoccupation with unusual objects or parts of objects

People with a form of autism, called savantism, have exceptional skills in specific areas such as music, art, and numbers.  People with savantism are able to perform these skills without lessons or practice.


Father and son

According to WebMD, babies develop at their own pace.  However, you should consider an evaluation for autism if any of the following apply:


  • Your child does not babble or coo by 12 months of age
  • Your child does not gesture, such as point or wave, by 12 months of age
  • Your child does not say single words by 16 months
  • Your child does not say two-word phrases on his or her own (rather than just repeating what someone else says) by 24 months
  • Your child has lost any language or social skills (at any age)


The exact cause of autism is unknown, but research has pointed to several possible factors, including genetics (heredity), certain types of infections, and problems occurring at birth.  According to WebMD, recent studies strongly suggest that some people have a genetic predisposition to autism, meaning that a susceptibility to develop the condition may be passed from parents to children.  In some children, environmental factors may also play a role.  Studies of people with autism have found abnormalities in several regions of the brain, which suggest that autism results from a disruption of early brain development while still in utero.


Doctor with syringe

According to WebMD, to date, there is no convincing evidence that any vaccine can cause autism or any kind of behavioral health disorder.  A suspected link between the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism has been suggested by some parents of children with autism.  Typically, symptoms of autism are first noted by parents as their child begins to have difficulty with delays in speaking after age one.  The MMR vaccine is first given to children at 12 to 15 months of age.  Therefore, autism cases with an apparent onset within a few weeks after the MMR vaccination may simply be an unrelated chance occurrence.


Autism affects an estimated 10 to 20 of every 10,000 people.  It is about four times more common in boys as in girls.




According to WebMD, if autism symptoms are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam.  Although there are no laboratory tests for autism, the doctor may use various tests - such as x-rays and blood tests - to determine if there is a physical disorder causing the symptoms.  If no physical disorder is found, the child may be referred to a specialist in childhood development disorders, such as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, psychologist, pediatric neurologist, or another health professional who is specially trained to diagnose and treat autism.


There currently is no cure for autism, but treatment may allow for relatively normal development in the child and reduce undesirable behaviors.  Children with autism generally benefit most from a highly structured environment and the use of routines.  Treatment of autism may include a combination of the following:

  • Special education - education that is structured to meet the child's unique educational needs
  • Behavior modification - includes strategies for supporting positive behavior and decreasing problem behavior by the child
  • Speech, physical, or occupational therapy - therapies that are designed to increase the child's functional abilities
  • Medication - there are no medications currently approved to treat autism, but medications may be used to treat specific symptoms such as anxiety, hyperactivity, and behavior that may result in injury. 


Teenage boy 

According to WebMD, the outlook for people with autism varies depending on the severity of the symptoms, the age at which treatment is started, and the availability of supportive resources for the child.  Symptoms in many children improve with intervention or as the children age.  Some people with autism are able to lead normal or near-normal lives.   However, many children with autism do not develop enough functional or communication skills to live independently as adults.  The outlook is better for children with higher levels of intelligence who are able to communicate with language. 


Autism cannot be prevented or cured.  However, early diagnosis and intervention is critical and may help to maximize a child with autism's ability to speak, learn, and function.  It is very important that all children see a pediatrician regularly so that any signs of autism can be detected early.  The earlier treatment is started, the more effective it can be.












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