Autism is a developmental disorder characterised by difficulties with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. Parents usually notice signs during the first three years of their child's life. These signs often develop gradually, though some children with autism reach their developmental milestones at a normal pace before declining.
Autism is associated with a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Risk factors during pregnancy include certain infections, such as rubella, toxins including valproic acid, alcohol, cocaine, pesticides and air pollution, fetal growth restriction, and autoimmune diseases. How this occurs is not fully understood.
Autism presents in different forms, some less severe than others, including Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified, have been combined into the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
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