Autism is a group of similar disorders with varying degrees of severity. So the term autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) is often used rather than autism.
Autism is actually one form of ASD. Other forms include Asperger's syndrome and Rett's syndrome. People with Asperger's syndrome tend to have fewer problems with language compared to people with classical autism. They are often of average, or above average, intelligence.
Symptoms usually become apparent in the first three years of life. Half of parents become concerned in the first 12 months. Some children with Asperger's syndrome are only diagnosed after they have started school.
The symptoms of ASD vary between people. Some have minimal symptoms whereas others may have severe difficulties. People with ASD have varying levels of intelligence. A few have very high IQs, but a low IQ is found in about 5 out of 10 people with ASD.
There are four different groups of symptoms, all of which usually occur in children with ASD.
There are different types of problems and not all will occur in each case. These can generally be described as 'not being able to get on with people'. So the child may:
Sometimes a child may seem to lose social skills that they once had. This may be skills such as waving goodbye. This is found in about 1 out of 4 cases.
Speech usually develops later than usual. When it does, the language (the use and choice of words) may not develop well. The sort of problems that children with ASD may have include one or more of the following: