April is Autism Awareness Month.

Autism (sometimes called “classical autism”) is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). 

Autism is characterized by three distinctive behaviors.  Autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, display problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and exhibit repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests.  These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling.  Autism varies widely in its severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when more debilitating handicaps mask it.  Scientists aren’t certain what causes autism, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role.

Autism was first identified in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital. At the same time, a German scientist, Dr. Hans Asperger, described a milder form of the disorder that is now known as Asperger Syndrome (read more). These two disorders are listed in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as two of the five developmental disorders that fall under the autism spectrum disorders. The others are Rett Syndrome, PDD NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. All of these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, and also by repetitive behaviors. For more discussion on the range of diagnoses that comprise autism spectrum disorder, click here.

Books, Recording and Research

Changing the Course of Autism: A Scientific Approach for Parents and Physicians (Paperback) by Bryan Jepson, MD

New Hope for Autism: How Natural Peptide Clathration Therapy Can Help Your Autistic Child by The Health Experts of The Doctors’ Prescription for Healthy Living The Health Experts of The Doctors’ Prescription for Healthy Living

Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders (Hardcover) by Kenneth Bock and Cameron Stauth

Children with Starving Brains: A Medical Treatment Guide for Autism Spectrum Disorder (Paperback), Jaquelyn McCandless

Video: Stephen Cowan, MD – The Five Phases of Attention Deficit Disorder, Dr. Cowan discusses the relevant questions surrounding attention defecit disorders and investigates the meaning of attention and the ways we can improve it in our children and ourselves.

Resources

Autism Research Institute, DAN—Defeat Autism Now!

The Whole Child Blog by Lawrence Rosen, MD 

MEDLine Plus 

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) 

Autism Society of America 

Autism Research Institute 

Autism Speaks 

Association for Science in Autism Treatment 

Autism National Committee (AUTCOM) 

Autism Information Center, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Mayo Clinic