Overview of Autism
Autism or PPD (pervasive developmental disorder) is defined by the Columbia encyclopedia as a rare neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by the inability to relate to and perceive the environment in a realistic manner. The onset of the disorder is in infancy or early childhood, generally before the age of thirty months, and males are affected four times as often as females. Symptoms include impairment in social interaction, fixation on inanimate objects, inability to communicate normally, and resistance to changes in daily routine (Anthes, 1997).
Characteristics of Autism
Diagnosing Autism is based on four characteristics: difficulty with language, abnormal responses to sensory stimuli, resistance to change and difficulty with social interaction. "Other characteristics of autism may include: making the same repetitive motion for hours, repeating a sound or phrase, inability to hold a conversation, practicing unusual play patterns, and extreme sensitivity to sound and touch" (Riccio, 1999). Autistics can exhibit any combination of these characteristics in any degree.
That is why autism is referred to as a "spectrum" disorder, because at one end of the disorder a child may be inflicted with some symptoms, while at the opposite end a child may be inflicted with multiple symptoms with many areas in between. Children who display few symptoms may be characterized as "mildly autistic".
Early signs of Autism may appear in the first months of life. Autistic infants tend to stray away from other people, avoiding touch and become limp or stiff when picked up or help. Autistic children don't reach maturation as fast as normal children. A normal child will point to objects or smile when seeing their mother before the end of their first year, but children with autism develop this behavior much later. These symptoms may go on unnoticed by parents or doctors in infancy, but by...