Symptoms begin before age 3 and last for life, though they may improve over time. Warning signs include:
Not responding to his or her name by 12 months
Not pointing at objects to show interest by 14 months; not playing pretend games by 18 months
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Avoiding eye contact, wanting to be alone
Trouble understanding others' feelings or talking about his or her own feelings
Delayed speech and language skills
Getting upset with minor changes
Flapping his or her hands, rocking of the body or spinning in circles
Unusual reactions to sound, smell, taste or other sensations
An intensive treatment involving the child's family and a team of professionals. A standard therapy is applied behavioral analysis, or repeated use of positive reinforcement to teach communication, social skills, self care and living skills. The child may require training 25 to 40 hours a week and is best started before age 4.
Two new government studies have found that autism occurs in about one in 100 children in the United States, or as high as 1 in 91 children. According to that rate, about 1,600 children ages 17 and under have autism in Stanislaus County.