Autism is a developmental disorder that appears mostly in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.
Autism is a physical condition linked to abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain. The exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown, but this is a very active area of research. There are probably a combination of factors that lead to autism.

Most parents of autistic children suspect that something is wrong by the time the child is 18 months old and seek help by the time the child is 2. Children with autism typically have difficulties in:
* Pretend play
* Social interactions
* Verbal and nonverbal communication
Some children with autism appear normal before age 1 or 2 and then suddenly “regress” and lose language or social skills they had previously gained. This is called the regressive type of autism.
People with autism may:
* Be overly sensitive in sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste
* Lack attending skills
* Have unusual distress when routines are changed
* Perform repeated body movements
* Show unusual attachments to objects
* Lack social interaction/ communication
* Have learning disabilities

The symptoms may vary from moderate to severe.

An early, intensive, appropriate treatment program will greatly improve the outlook for most young children with autism. Most programs will build on the interests of the child in a highly structured schedule of constructive activities. Visual aids are often helpful.
Treatment is most successful when geared toward the child’s particular needs. An experienced specialist or team should design the program for the individual child. A variety of therapies are available, including:
* Applied behavior analysis (ABA)
* Medications
* Occupational therapy
* Physical therapy
* Speech-language therapy
Sensory integration and vision therapy are also common, but there is little research supporting their effectiveness. The best treatment plan may use a combination of techniques.

Medicines are often used to treat behavior or emotional problems that people with autism may have, including:
* Aggression
* Anxiety
* Attention problems
* Extreme compulsions that the child find impossible to stop
* Hyperactivity
* Impulsiveness
* Irritability
* Mood swings
* Outbursts
* Sleep difficulty
* Tantrums