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The autism spectrum is a range of developmental disorders that share common characteristics. Autistic children have noticeable difficulty communicating, expressing themselves in various ways, and forming healthy bonds with others, perhaps even parents. Autism spectrum disorders are classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which serves as the go-to guide for psychiatrists and early childhood interventionists. Certain detailed criteria in the DSM-IV help doctors diagnose these disorders, which depends on a child meeting a certain number of criteria.Roughly, the autistic spectrum is comprised of three major categories: autism is the primary disorder; Asperger's syndrome is a less severe manifestation of autism in which there is no delay in language development; and, Pervasive developmental disorder is a more general term to account for a collection of autistic symptoms that do not entirely qualify as either autism or Asperger's. Autism and Asperger's are both pervasive developmental disorders that differ on the language component; in the DSM-IV, Pervasive developmental disorder as a specific diagnosis is clarified as "Not Otherwise Specified". As for symptoms of autism spectrum disorders, several signs are apparent including children who have expressive difficulties usually related to language and eye-contact. Historically, people believed that autistic children liked to be alone; rather, the expressive difficulties they experience contribute to their isolation and inhibit their abilities to form healthy, open, trusting bonds with parents or peers. Likewise, many doctors believed that children with autism did not want to talk and liked to be silent; again, this is more of a symptom of autism than the preference of a child. The expressive difficulties themselves create the isolation and lack of healthy interaction with others. Because of the frustrations of living with autism, the inability to express oneself openly or fully, and the lack of healthy bonds within the family or classroom, many autistic children endure behavioral problems related to anger. Not all autistic children display this symptom, but it is common. A few other tell-tale signs of autism exist, such as a child's strict need for a routine, even a compulsive and repetitive need to do the same activities or motions over and over again. It seems that in a disorder where eye-contact is rare, speech is delayed, bonds are affected negatively, and the difficulties lead to emotional disregulation, then the child depends completely on the inner-world in which he or she lives, and therefore may become very attached to his or her particular playthings, even the order in which they are laid out or assembled.No cure for autism spectrum disorders has been discovered, although many treatment options are available once one of the three diagnoses is given. For example, different kinds of therapy, from music and speech to occupational, many help in order to improve daily living skills. A number of behavioral therapies and techniques are also used, and the goal is to cultivate the child's potential with language, communication skills, and forming healthy relationships.
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