Autism is a developmental disability increasingly being diagnosed in young children. It can be devastating to families, but help is available through early diagnosis and treatment.
It is estimated that one in every 88 newborns in the U.S. may be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and incidences of the disorder are increasing. Dr. Mary Dobbins, assistant professor of psychiatry at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, says one reason for the increase in autism is that the medical profession is getting better at diagnosing it. She describes the disorder:
Dobbins says other characteristics of children with autism include speech and language being delayed or different. They have stereotypical behaviors such as being overly interested in certain things, or they may rock or spin repeatedly. She says children have the best chance for improvement if diagnosed and treated early.
Dobbins says parents of young children who have symptoms of autism should make an appointment with their primary care physician or pediatrician for evaluation. If autism is diagnosed, they may be referred to a pediatric specialist or neurologist for treatment.