by Susan J. Moreno, M.A.A.B.S., founder and president of MAAP Services for the Autism Spectrum
Autism is a life-long developmental disability. This means that it impairs various aspects of typical development and lasts a lifetime.
Autism is a syndrome, which means that it is a condition defined by the existence of a collection of characteristics. For example:
Individuals with autism experience difficulty in verbal and/or nonverbal communication, which ranges in extremes from not speaking at all to being unable to interpret body language or to participate comfortably in two-way conversation.
People with autism exhibit rigidity in thought processes, which can include difficulty with learning abstract concepts, generalizing information, and tolerating changes in routines and/or environments.
The most outstanding hallmark of autism is difficulty with reciprocal social interaction. This can range from appearing to want social isolation to experiencing social awkwardness in attaining and maintaining ongoing relationships.
The symptoms of autism are usually apparent within the first 36 months of life. However, in the case of very high-functioning individuals, symptoms may not be apparent until later in life.