Your child has just been diagnosed with autism-  What is autism?

Autism is a serious neurologic and  developmental disorder   occurring in children during the first three years of life.  Autism affects  the areas of social interaction and communication.  Children with autism tend to have poor eye contact and can be  lost in their own world showing little interest in others.  Verbal and non-verbal communication can be very difficult .  Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning each child can be affected to various  degrees.  Some children show all the typical signs of autism whereas other children  may only have a few of the classic signs.  Each child can also have the same signs but to a different degree of severity.     According to the Center for Disease Control  one out of every 88 children are diagnosed with autism.  Boys are four times more likely to have  it  then girls.
How is Autism Diagnosed?

There is not  a medical blood test  at present that can be run to diagnose autism ,  A diagnosis is obtained through a behavioral assessment using standardized tests. To make a diagnosis , a specific number of  criteria on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of  Mental Disorders(DSM-IV)  must be met.  The criteria that are looked at fall into three broad categories (  social interaction,  communication, 
and repetitive patterns of behavior) .  The professional making the assessment,  usually a psychologist, psychiatrist or  developmental pediatrician is looking for impairments in these areas. With social interaction the professional will be interested in how the child relates to other people. They  will  evaluate if  the child has good eye contact and smiles  when smiled at.  They will see if  the child points to objects or bring objects over to  someone to interact.  Does the child take interest in other children and imitate other people?  These are just some of the questions the professional will evaluate.  In the area of communication, the professional will evaluate if the child can talk and if so can they carry on  age appropriate conversations.  In the area of repetitive behaviors, does the child exhibit finger flapping or repetitive  movements?  Can the child play with toys in an age appropriate manner?
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