Autism is a developmental disability of the brain, much like dyslexia, mental retardation, or attention deficit disorder. Autism is not a form of mental retardation, and though many autistic people appear to function as retarded, they are frequently quite intelligent. Approximately 15 of every 10,000 individuals and nearly 400,000 people in the United States today have some form of autism (Dowdy).
The word autism may actually refer to several similar disabilities, including Autistic Disorder, Aspergers Syndrome, and "Atypical" Autism. Atypical Autism is a type of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified. Though there are some differences between these conditions, they are quite similar, and those who have them experience many of the same difficulties in life (All).
The symptoms of autism can vary widely from one individual to the next. Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder because it ranges in severity across a wide range of conditions, like the colors of a rainbow.
In addition, some people may be affected more by one symptom, while others may be affected more strongly by a different symptom. Also, some of the symptoms may have variable manifestations (Twachtman).
Autistic people tend to have unusual sensory experiences. These experiences may involve a sense being too sensitive, less sensitive than normal, and/or difficulty interpreting a sense. These experiences do not involve hallucinations; autistic people have sensory experience based on real experiences, like normal people, but the experience may feel or sound different. Sometimes, the autistic person may have difficulty interpreting the experience. No two autistic people appear to have the exact same pattern of sensory problems. It is not uncommon, for example, for an autistic person to avoid being touched. This is usually because of a heightened sense of touch. A gentle touch to most people may hurt or shock some autistic...