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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:47 pm
Autism (AW-tiz-um) is a complex developmental disability that's the result of a brain disorder. It typically appears in children during the first three years, more often in boys than girls, and can continue into adulthood. There's no known cause or cure for this condition. Autism inhibits normal areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. The disorder makes it hard for them to communicate with others and relate to the outside world. In some cases, aggressive or self-injurious behavior may be present. Signs that a child may be autistic include not responding emotionally when spoken to or when interacting with others, repeated movements such as head-banging or arm-waving, and not being interested in toys or much of anything else. Children can exhibit any combination of the behaviors in varying degrees of severity and be considered autistic. Some individuals with autism may also have other disorders that affect the functioning of the brain, such as epilepsy, mental retardation, Down's syndrome, or genetic disorders. No single approach is effective in alleviating the symptoms of autism in all cases, but various types of therapies are available from physicians, psychologists, speech therapists, and other professionals, to enable children with autism to reach their full potential.

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