Autism is a life long non-progressive developmental disability that severely impairs the way sensory input is assimilated, causing problems in social behavior, communication and learning ability and hindering the establishment of normal social and parent-child relationships. Most of the time, those with autism demonstrate some degree of mental retardation. It is typically illustrated during the first three years of life. No known factor in the field of psychology has been identified as the cause; nor has a biomedical reason been found. Yet it is confirmed that autism is not caused by improper parental handling or adverse living environment but is a series of medical disorders, which can be identified as symptoms of autism. Current medical research suggests that autism is a disorder of early brain development, probably before 30 weeks gestation age.


When a child demonstrates signs and symptoms as illustrated below, the parent may need to consult a specialist:

Resist normal teaching methods

Giggle and laugh for no explanatory reasons or at inappropriate moments

Echolaly (repeating what is heard like parrot)

Behave as if being a deaf

Have no fear of real danger

Insensitivity to pain

Crying tantrums or extreme distress for no discernible reason

Spin objects repeatedly

Refuse to be cuddled

Sustain odd plays

Difficulty mixing with other children

Resist changes in routine

Avoid eye contact

Stand-offish manner

Uneven gross and fine motion skills

Attachment to objects

Indicate needs by gesture

Demonstrate physical over-activity or extreme passivity

Autism greatly affects the way an individual relates to others and to the world. Its symptoms can be classified in the following general areas:

Qualitative impairment in social interaction skills

Limited, repetitive and stereotyped pattern of behavior, interests and activities

- Delays or malfunction in social interaction, language or symbolic/imaginative play before the age of three


Since the cause of autism is currently unknown, there are no medical tests that can definitively confirm or rule out a diagnosis. It is diagnosed by comparing individual behaviors to identifiable autistic symptoms (DSM IV and ICD-10) to determine whether or not a child is autistic.


Autism has been found throughout the world in families of all racial and social backgrounds. It occurs in approximately 5-15 out of every 10,000 births, and is four times more common in boys than girls. It is estimated there are 500,000 autistic suffers in China.


Due to its cause unknown, there is not effective cure for autism. However, early diagnosis and intervention have proved to be vital to the future development of an autistic child, and special educational program using behavioral training methods could significantly improve the quality of his life.

Autism in China

Since autism has rarely been recognized in China, and clinic diagnosis hardly available, few autistic children are diagnosed before they reach three years old as to miss the best time of intervention. Even with the few, who are diagnosed as autistic, they are not given any treatment or training directed toward their needs, thus missing the chance of making a positive turn later on.

Most children with autism are rejected by kindergartens or schools. Even with the few specialized schools for children with mental disorders in big cities, they are unable to offer appropriate help to autistic children because they lack the knowledge and skills to do so. Staying home thus becomes the only option for a large majority of autistic children. This puts tremendous pressure on their parents. By leaving them on their own, these children lose all the chances of developing their potential talents that they originally might have.

When a family has a child with autism

Each diagnosis means a broken dream for the parents. They are often in despair and uncertainties not knowing how to cope with their life and where to get help. They are not able to get any financial support from the government, which does not provide any form of insurance program for the disabled. The thought of what will happen to their child when they die makes their life very stressful. In the meantime, they have to work very hard to support their child and prepare for his or her future because raising an autistic child requires a plenty of time and money.