Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, including Autism and Asperger's (a mild form of autism without language difficulties). Below are some of the symptoms of autism:
-Impaired social interaction
-Communication difficulties; repetitive and stereotyped behavior
-No verbal communication (In some cases)
Experts estimate that 1 out of 88 children will have ASD at the age of eight (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, March 30, 2012). This disorder is 4 times more common among boys than girls.

How is Autism like in the Early years?

Signs of ASD can start as early as the age of 6 months. A baby with ASD may be unresponsive to people and focus for a long time on one item, to the exclusion of others for a very long period.
A child with ASD doesn’t always have a delay in his cognitive development, but will have a major difficulty in understanding what others are thinking. They don’t know how to interpret facial expressions, tone of voice, common social signals and usually don’t make eye contact. Common social behaviors which any child will learn naturally, is not natural for them. Lack of eye contact is common among child with ASD.


What are some common signs of autism? 

The hallmark feature of ASD is impaired social interaction. As early as infancy, a baby with ASD may be unresponsive to people or focus intently on one item to the exclusion of others for long periods of time. A child with ASD may appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.
Children with an ASD may fail to respond to their names and often avoid eye contact with other people. They have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can’t understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions, and don’t look at other people’s faces for clues about appropriate behavior. They may lack empathy.
Many children with an ASD engage in repetitive movements such as rocking and twirling, or in self-abusive behavior such as biting or head-banging. They also tend to start speaking later than other children and may refer to themselves by name instead of “I” or “me.” Children with an ASD don’t know how to play interactively with other children. Some speak in a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking.


How is autism diagnosed?

ASD varies widely in severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when it is masked by more debilitating handicaps. Very early indicators that require evaluation by an expert include:
• no babbling or pointing by age 1
• no single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
• no response to name
• loss of language or social skills
• poor eye contact
• excessive lining up of toys or objects
• no smiling or social responsiveness

Later indicators include:
• impaired ability to make friends with peers
• impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
• absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
• stereotyped, repetitive, or unusual use of language
• restricted patterns of interest that are abnormal in intensity or focus
• preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
• inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals.
Health care providers will often use a questionnaire or other screening instrument to gather information about a child’s development and behavior. Some screening instruments rely on parent observations, while others rely on a combination of parent and doctor observations. If screening instruments indicate the possibility of an ASD, it will be usually followed by a more comprehensive evaluation.

A comprehensive evaluation requires a multidisciplinary team, including a psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist, and other professionals who diagnose children with ASDs. The team members will conduct a thorough neurological assessment and in-depth cognitive and language testing. As
hearing problems can cause behaviors that could be mistaken for children with delayed speech development should also have their hearing tested.


Treatment

There is no medical cure for Autism, but various behavioral interventions can be done. It involves often a child's entire family, working closely with a team of professionals. The earlier the treatment is started the better. There are various behavioral therapies which are mainly prescribed depending on the age of the child and the severity of the ASD.
These behavioral therapies sometimes include a training with the parent leading therapy sessions under the supervision of the therapist.
There are several schools and institutes specializing in ASD children, but some autistic children are able to integrate a regular school with a learning support.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is more and more known, but a lot still need to be done and explore. The main key of success for these children stay an early diagnostic and an early intervention.

Contributions:
1. Emilie Clairet, registered Medical Doctor in France, with a double background in both medical Biology and Public Health
2. Jane Wong
2. http://www.kidevaction.com
3. http://sped-371-54.wikispaces.com/Chapter+5