According to Wikipedia,
Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. In order for a diagnosis to be given, symptoms must become apparent before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood. It is one of three recognized disorders in the autism spectrum (ASDs), the other two being Asperger syndrome, which lacks delays in cognitive development and language, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (commonly abbreviated as PDD-NOS), which is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met.
Autism has a strong genetic basis, although the genetics of autism are complex and it is unclear whether ASD is explained more by rare mutations, or by rare combinations of common genetic variants. In rare cases, autism is strongly associated with agents that cause birth defects. Controversies surround other proposed environmental causes, such as heavy metals, pesticides or childhood vaccines; the vaccine hypotheses are biologically implausible and lack convincing scientific evidence. The prevalence of autism is about 1–2 per 1,000 people worldwide, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report 11.3 per 1,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with ASD as of 2008. The number of people diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically since the 1980s, partly due to changes in diagnostic practice; the question of whether actual prevalence has increased is unresolved.
Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child's life. The signs usually develop gradually, but some autistic children first develop more normally and then regress. Early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help autistic children gain self-care, social, and communication skills. Although there is no known cure, there have been reported cases of children who recovered. Not many children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, though some become successful. An autistic culture has developed, with some individuals seeking a cure and others believing autism should be accepted as a difference and not treated as a disorder.
Scientists are making inroads in research into autism.
Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have shown that high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children appear to outgrow a critical social communication disability. Younger children with ASD have trouble integrating the auditory and visual cues associated with speech, but the researchers found that the problem clears up in adolescence. The study was published today in the online edition of the journal Cerebral Cortex.
Problems with a key group of enzymes called topoisomerases can have profound effects on the genetic machinery behind brain development and potentially lead to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to research announced today in the journal Nature. Scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have described a finding that represents a significant advance in the hunt for environmental factors behind autism and lends new insights into the disorder's genetic causes.
Women in the U.S. exposed to high levels of air pollution while pregnant were up to twice as likely to have a child with autism as women who lived in areas with low pollution, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). It is the first large national study to examine links between autism and air pollution across the U.S.
Maternal use of valproate (a drug used for the treatment of epilepsy and other neuropsychological disorders) during pregnancy was associated with a significantly increased risk of autism in offspring, according to a study in the April 24 issue of JAMA. The authors caution that these findings must be balanced against the treatment benefits for women who require valproate for epilepsy control.
Children and teens with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) use screen-based media, such as television and video games, more often than their typically developing peers and are more likely to develop problematic video game habits, a University of Missouri researcher found.
Neuroscientists from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the University of Toronto have developed an efficient and reliable method of analyzing brain activity to detect autism in children. Their findings appear today in the online journal PLOS ONE.
Although scientific evidence suggests that vaccines do not cause autism, approximately one-third of parents continue to express concern that they do; nearly 1 in 10 parents refuse or delay vaccinations because they believe it is safer than following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) schedule. A primary concern is the number of vaccines administered, both on a single day and cumulatively over the first 2 years of life. In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers concluded that there is no association between receiving "too many vaccines too soon" and autism.