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(ô`tĭzəm), developmental disability resulting from a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain. It is characterized by the abnormal development of communication skills, social skills, and reasoning. Males are affected four times as often as females. Children may appear generally normal until around the age of 24 to 30 months, although studies have identified signs of autism in children under a year of age.

Symptoms, which vary widely in severity, include impairment in social interaction, fixation on inanimate objects, inability to communicate normally, and resistance to changes in daily routine. Characteristic traits include lack of eye contact, repetition of words or phrases, unmotivated tantrums, inability to express needs verbally, and insensitivity to pain. Behaviors may change over time. Autistic children often have other disorders of brain function; about two thirds are mentally retarded; over one quarter develop seizures.

The cause of autism remains unclear, but a psychological one has been ruled out. Neurological studies indicate a primary brain dysfunction, perhaps related to abnormalities that appear to occur in the way the autistic child's brain develops. A genetic component is indicated by a pattern of autism in some families, and studies have suggested that a number of genes may be involved. Exposure in the womb to elevated levels of steroid hormones has been found to be associated with autism in boys in one study, but study compared the average levels of two groups of boys (one with, the without, autism) and individual levels in the two groups overlapped. The condition also appears to be more common in children born to older mothers or older fathers. Treatment in which autistic children are intensively and repetitively taught skills and behaviors from a young age appears to help some children with the disorder.


See T. Grandin, Emergence: Labeled Autistic (with M. M. Scariano, 1986, repr. 1996), Thinking in Pictures (1995), and The Autistic Brain (with R. Panek, 2013); L. Wing, ed., Aspects of Autism (1988); J. Donvan and C. Zucker, In a Different Key (2016). See also publications of the Autism Society of America.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


A schizophrenic symptom characterized by absorption in fantasy to the exclusion of perceptual reality.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Psychiatry abnormal self-absorption, usually affecting children, characterized by lack of response to people and actions and limited ability to communicate
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Knowledge about childhood autism among health workers (KCAHW) questionnaire: description, reliability and internal consistency.
Speech 2.3 (1.6) <0.001 1:2, 2:3, 2:4, 2:5 ABC-Total 25.2 (13.4) <0.001 1:2, 2:3, 2:4, 2:5 CARS 16.6 (1.8) <0.001 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, 1:5 ABC: aberrant behavior checklist; CARS: childhood autism rating scale; Inap: inappropriate; ASD: autism spectrum disorder; DBD: disruptive behaviour disorder; LnD: language delay; Dep/Anx: depression/anxiety; dx: diagnosis Table 4.
Nitto, "Cumulative incidence of childhood autism: A total population study of better accuracy and precision," Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, vol.
Abbreviations ASD: Autism spectrum disorder CARS: Childhood Autism Rating Scale LD: Linkage disequilibriums SNP: Single-nucleotide polymorphism VDR: Vitamin D receptor.
Differences in Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), 20m run, the standing broad jump test,Mushroom Float, and Walking in the poolbetween the two measurements (pretests-posttests)were compared using a paired t-test.
Relation of the childhood autism rating scale-parent version to diagnosis, stress, and age.
(1) The Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) is a behavioral rating scale used to assess the presence and severity of autism spectrum disorders [24].
Autistic severity was assessed by using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS).
It was assessed that maternal smoking was related to a modest increase in the risk of Pervasive Developmental Disorders, however, there was no known association between maternal smoking and childhood autism [34].
Twenty four children (17 boys, 7 girls; with male to female ratio 2.4: 1), aged 3-6 years, were included in the study according to the criteria of DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Diseases, USA) and using CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale, a test combining parent reports and direct observation by the professional) [14].
Data from the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study showed that autism was also associated with residential proximity to a freeway during the third trimester.

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