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Autism Public History

Health Topic Groups: Mental Health and Behavior, Children and Teenagers

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH): Autistic Disorder

Autism is a disorder that is usually first diagnosed in early childhood. The main signs and symptoms of autism involve communication, social interactions and repetitive behaviors.

Children with autism might have problems talking with you, or they might not look you in the eye when you talk to them. They may have to line up their pencils before they can pay attention, or they may say the same sentence again and again to calm themselves down. They may flap their arms to tell you they are happy, or they might hurt themselves to tell you they are not. Some people with autism never learn how to talk.

Because people with autism can have very different features or symptoms, health care providers think of autism as a "spectrum" disorder. Asperger syndrome is a milder version of the disorder.

The cause of autism is not known. Autism lasts throughout a person's lifetime. There is no cure, but treatment can help. Treatments include behavior and communication therapies and medicines to control symptoms.

NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

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