Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex disability which affects development with a wide range of signs and symptoms. It impairs the way a person communicates and the way they perceive and interact with the world around them. The condition is described as a spectrum disorder; this means that although some people may share some of the characteristics associated with being autistic, the way each individual is affected can vary. This means that no two children with autism are exactly alike, however, they may share commonalities such as difficulties with language and social interactions.
While many people with the condition lead independent lives others can require a lifetime of support because of the severity in which they have been affected by learning disabilities.
The causes of autism are not yet fully understood and are still under investigation; however, research suggests that genetic and environmental factors may account for changes in brain development. A dysfunctional immune system may have affected the development and operation of the nervous system in some children with the condition. Steroids and anti-inflammatories have had some promise in studies as a symptomatic therapy for autism.
Scientists are hoping to find new treatments that "calm" this overactive immune response to help protect the developing brain in young children with autism.