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Autism is a disease that often is as devastating in its effects on the family as on the sufferer. Autism is a developmental handicap that impairs the ability to process social and linguistic information, including the autistic person's emotions and those of others. Observers describe autism in various ways, but generally they see a helpless child trapped inside a syndrome that prevents them from relating normally to the world and that distorts learning, destroys emotional stability, and often produces a sense of hopelessness in child and parent alike.

Many childhood disabilities and emotional disorders resemble autism, especially in very young children, and these include symbiotic disorder, reactive attachment disorder, and nonverbal learning disabilities, among others. Even a child showing some autistic features may not be autistic, which is why careful and accurate diagnosis is essential. The younger the child, the harder it is to make an accurate diagnosis. The earliest conceivable age for an autism diagnosis is two years old, and a reliable diagnosis for classic autism usually is not possible until at least age three. Most Asperger's Syndrome children are not diagnosed until they reach grade school because of their relatively high level of functioning. At the same time, early intervention is associated with a more positive outcome for the autistic child, but such intervention is still not possible without an accurate diagnosis (Lay, 1993, 23-24).

Autism was first identified in 1943, though certainly it existed long before it was described and named by Leo Kanner of the Johns Hopkins Children's Psychiatric Clinic. Kanner observed 11 children who seemed to him to form a recognizable group, as all had in common four traits: a preference for aloneness, an insistence on sameness, a liking for elaborate routines, and some abilities that seemed remarkable compared with the deficits. At the same time, Hans Asperger was ma...

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Autism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:28, July 01, 2022, from