Autism is a childhood developmental disorder that affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills. In a recent interview, Dr. Trevor Valentine, a pediatrician in the Division of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics at the University of Maryland Medical Center, answered some frequently asked questions about this disorder. To view his responses, click on the questions listed below or scroll down the page.
What is autism?
Autism is a disorder that affects three main areas of a child's life. The first characteristic of autistic children is an impairment in their ability to communicate. The second characteristic that pediatricians observe is an impairment in the child's ability to relate to other persons. Lastly, the third characteristic is defined by particular patterns of behavior that pediatricians recognize as stereotypical of autistic children.
What is the incidence of autism?
The incidence of autism has been increasing in recent years, and now, approximately one in every 100 children will exhibit symptoms of this disorder. In fact, diagnosing and treating children with autism is one of the areas of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics that is increasing in need in the community and throughout the country.
My child is a late talker, could he or she be autistic?
All autistic children experience impairments in their language development. However, only a small fraction of children who are "late talkers" are subsequently diagnosed with autism. One of the challenges of seeing children who are late talkers is trying to decide which of them are actually autistic. My job is to differentiate between these two groups.
What options are available to treat autism?
The treatment of autism involves early intervention and supportive care for the family. Pediatricians will also recommend particular educational interventions that are known to be helpful for these children.