autist, n.autistic /aw tis"tik/, adj.autistically, adv.
/aw"tiz euhm/, n.
1. Psychiatry. a pervasive developmental disorder of children, characterized by impaired communication, excessive rigidity, and emotional detachment.
2. a tendency to view life in terms of one's own needs and desires.
[1910-15; AUT- + -ISM]

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Neurobiological disorder that affects physical, social, and language skills.

First described by Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger in the 1940s, the syndrome usually appears before 212 years of age. Autistic infants appear indifferent or averse to affection and physical contact. They may be slow in learning to speak and suffer episodes of rage or panic; they may also appear deaf and display an almost hypnotized fascination with certain objects. Autism is often characterized by rhythmic body movements such as rocking or hand-clapping and by an obsessive desire to prevent change in daily routines. Autistic individuals may be hypersensitive to some stimuli (e.g., high-pitched sounds) and abnormally slow to react to others (e.g., physical pain). The disorder is three to four times more common in males. Though postnatal factors such as lack of parental attention were once blamed, it is now known that autism is the result of abnormalities in the brain structure. About 15–20% of autistic adults live and work independently; "high-functioning" autistic people may have special gifts based on their unusual ability for visual thinking. See also idiot savant.

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      a developmental disorder that affects physical, social, and language skills. The syndrome usually appears before three years of age, although the earliest signs are quite subtle.

      Autistic children (childhood disease and disorder) appear indifferent or averse to affection and physical contact, although attachment to parents or certain adults often develops later. Speech develops slowly and abnormally (it is often atonal and arrhythmic) or not at all. It may be characterized by meaningless, noncontextual echolalia (constant repetition of what is said by others) or the replacement of speech by strange mechanical sounds. There may be abnormal reaction to sound, no reaction to pain, or no recognition of genuine danger, yet autistic children are extremely sensitive. Usually the syndrome is accompanied by an obsessive desire to prevent environmental change. Frequently there are also rhythmic body movements, such as rocking or hand-clapping. About 25 percent of autistic children develop seizures by late adolescence.

      Estimates of the prevalence of autism range from 10 to 20 per 10,000 children; some 15 to 20 percent are able to become socially and vocationally independent. The disorder is about four times more common in males.

      Autism is still incompletely understood. Abnormalities of the brain (particularly in the cerebellum, brain stem, and limbic system) are likely to have occurred during early development. Genetic or environmental influences, a deficiency of large neurons called Purkinje cells in the cerebellum, or an excess of the neurotransmitter serotonin may also cause autism. There is no cure for autism; behavioral or drug therapy may improve some symptoms. People with the condition have a normal life expectancy.

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Universalium. 2010.

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