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What is Autism

"Autism is a lifelong, complex condition that occurs as a result of disordered brain growth, structure and development. Autism is believed to stem from a genetic predisposition triggered by environmental factors and affects 4-5 times more boys than girls. There are a vast number of ways that a person can manifest their autism and as a result this condition is now more often referred to as "Autism Spectrum Disorders" (ASD).


Autism Spectrum Disorder is a lifelong, extremely complex condition that appears to result from a genetic predisposition that is triggered by environmental factors. Autism occurs in every race group and in every country on earth. The prevalence of Autism is increasing – Autism South Africa has indicated that 1 child in every 150 has one of the identified autism spectrum disorders.


Autism spectrum disorder is a new DSM-5 name that reflects a scientific consensus that four previously separate disorders are actually a single condition with different levels of symptom severity in two core domains. ASD now encompasses the previous DSM-IV autistic disorder (autism), Asperger's disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. ASD is characterized by 1) deficits in social communication and social interaction and 2) restricted repetitive behaviours, interests, and activities (RRBs). Because both components are required for diagnosis of ASD, social communication disorder is diagnosed if no RRBs are present.


Early detection, diagnosis and intervention are crucial to successful treatment of a child with autism. Currently, in most parts of South Africa, especially in rural areas, children with autism often go undetected, misdiagnosed and untreated. Many children are diagnosed after the age of three years, when the window of opportunity for early intervention has already shut.

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The information in this article was kindly provided by The South African Speech, Language, Hearing Association. For further information kindly contact them on: 0861 113 297 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.