Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder of early brain development that affects at least 1 in 500 people. It is characterized by communication problems, difficulty with normal social interactions, and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behavior. Because these symptoms and behaviors can vary greatly among individuals, doctors consider autism to be a spectrum disorder--a group of disorders with various degrees of impairment for the set of similar features.
Although there is no cure, there are educational and drug interventions that can help individuals with autism. Current research findings suggest that autism has a strong inherited component. Scientists think the disorder is the result of a complex interaction between several different genes involved with brain signaling and development. Unknown factors in a child's surroundings are also likely to play a role.
The Institute of Human Genetics together with the Philippine Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics have recently convened an Autism Study Group to systematically register patients and their families with autism. The families themselves will provide the necessary data needed to explore the many ways these gene-environment interactions occur in the development of autism.