Mental Illnesses: Autism

By Alaina Hostetter and Dimitrios Synnefias

The Definition

Autism is a word that refers to a wide range of developmental disorders that some people are born with or develop early in life. The Autism disorder is a brain problem that affects a person’s communication and social skill, behaviors, and ability to learn.

Signs/Symptoms and Who is at Risk

Children would start to have difficulty with social communication, and it is often noticeable when comparing children of the same age. People who are at risk are mostly children around the age of 8, or younger. Boys face about four to five times higher risk than girls.


Doctors and researchers don’t fully understand what causes it, but scientists believe it has something to do with genes and environmental factors.


There is no cure for autism, but early intervention and treatment can help kids improve skills and achieve their best potential.

Types of Behaviors

Children would make little eye contact, fail to respond to other people or listen, and respond unusually when others show anger, distress, or affection.

Types of Related Disorders

Eight disorders are part of or closely related to the Autism spectrum including Angelman Syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Lanau-Kleffner Syndrome, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Tardive Dyskinesia, and Williams Syndrome.


About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189)

Facts and Myths

Facts: Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder in the U.S. Autism costs a family $60,000 a year on average.

Myths: People with Autism don't want friends.

If someone in your class has autism, they probably struggle with social skills, which may make it difficult to interact with peers. They might seem shy or unfriendly, but that's just because he or she is unable to communicate their desire for relationships the same way you do.