What Is Autism?

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Autism is a type of behavior that was only described and formally diagnosed in the early 1980s, and it manifests in speech problems, odd behaviors and difficulty communicating with others. Understand the little that is known about this condition with advice from a practicing pediatrician in this free video on autism.

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Video Transcript

Hi! I'm Dr. David Hill and today we're going to be talking about the question, what is autism? Autism is a description of a type of behavior that was only described around 1950 or so. It came into being as a formal diagnosis in the early 1980s and become much more widespread in the diagnostic literature in the 1990s. Our basic understanding of autism is a whole spectrum of behavior but the one thing the spectrum has in common is difficulty or complete failure understanding that other people have emotions, feelings and thoughts, the same as the child whose stricken with autism. This makes it obviously very difficult for the child to understand what other people mean when they're trying to communicate with him, and I say him, because most children who have autism are male. It also makes it very difficult for that child to get his needs known and express what he wants to express. A child with autism may look at somebody's face, for example, as just another object. Which means all the new ones are just facial expressions that we used to communicate with each other are lost on that child. Likewise, he may have a very difficult time learning words because words are just random sounds as far as he's concerned. The first signs of autism are evident as early as 9 months of age, and usually show up with speech delays or odd behaviors. Autism is usually pretty easily diagnosed by 18-24 months of age, if somebody's looking carefully for the appropriate signs. In terms of the causes of autism, they're being discovered everyday. Up to 40 percent of autistic children are now known to have some sort of genetic mutation that may contribute to their autistic behavior. However, 60 percent of cases really we don't know the cause exactly. However, we are learning more and more that autism is caused by things that happen before birth, in the uterus. And it while, it's a disease with a common presentation, it's probably going to end up being dozens, if not hundreds of different underlying diseases that look the same on the surface. Talking about what is autism, I'm Dr. David Hill.


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