Classic autism, or autistic disorder, is considered to be the most extreme form of developmental disability on the autism spectrum. It is usually diagnosed by the age of 3 and affects males 5 times more than females. A complex neurobehavioral condition, the severity can range from an impairment that limits normal activity to an overwhelming disability requiring institutional care.

Individuals with autism are often described as "living in their own world." They have extreme difficulty with communication, empathy, and forming attachments. Demonstrating very little interest in others, autistic children and adults center their attention on routine and / or repetitive behaviors. Symptoms of autistic disorder can include:

  • Preoccupation with moving objects, lights, or parts of objects
  • Rocking, pacing, or hand flapping
  • Delay in language development
  • Sensitivity to everyday noise, touch, or smell
  • Focus on ritual and / or routine
  • Disinterest or lack of awareness in surroundings or other people
  • Word and phrase repetition

Diagnosing Autistic Disorder

There is no single medical test, such as an MRI or blood test, to diagnosis autistic disorder. Diagnosis is a complex process involving developmental screenings and evaluations. Children who have known risk factors for autism are usually closely monitored for developmental delays and other signs of the disability.

If delays in development are identified, the child will undergo a comprehensive evaluation to ascertain if autism is the cause. This evaluation may include:

  • Genetic, neurological, hearing, and vision testing
  • Complete review of the child's behavior tendencies
  • Referral to a specialist such as a developmental pediatrician, child neurologist, and / or child psychologist

Early Identification of Autism

Most researchers and medical specialists agree that early identification is vital for optimal intervention and treatment of autism. Currently, investigative studies are being conducted on methods to detect susceptibility for the disability, what triggers autism development, and possible measures to lessen the risk.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) article suggested the possibility of detecting fetal predisposition factors. This same article made note that children born to parents with an autoimmune disease have a higher risk for the development of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A prior history of miscarriages and / or a previous birth of a child with ASD appears to increase the risk.

Not surprisingly, reproductive immunologists are in a unique position to investigate these possible correlations. At Braverman Reproductive Immunology, we are one of the world's top infertility treatment centers and are currently leading a discussion forum on this topic. Women who have a previous history of miscarriage, who have a child diagnosed with ASD, and are concerned about the risk of autism for future children are urged to join in the conversation.

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