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Definition: Autism is a developmental disorder that develops in the first three years of life which affects the brain's normal development of social and comunication skills.

Symptoms: Children with autism typically have difficulty with "pretend" play, social interactions, and verbal and nonverbal communication. They also may be overly sensitive in sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste, have unusual distress when routines are changed, perform repeated body movements, or show unusual attachments to objects. Autistic children have trouble maintaining conversation and reading social cues, as well.

Causes: The exact causes of autism are unknown, but genetic factors seem important. A number of other causes are suspected, including diet, digestive tract changes, mercury poisoning, vaccine sensitivity, and an inability of the body to properly use vitamins and minerals.

Treatment: Treatment includes Applied Behavior Analysis, medication, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language therapy. The medication doesn't treat the autism, just the symptoms which cause stress to the autistic patient and/or the people he comes into contact with.

Anecdote: The pianist and composer Thomas Wiggins possessed a phenomenal musical memory and was said to be able to perform some seven thousand piano compositions. His concerts nearly always featured a challenge in which a member of the audience was invited to the stage to play anything he liked, preferably an original work.

No matter what it was, Wiggins, who was also known for his odd grunting and contortions onstage, would play it right back, fumbles and all...
In addition, Wiggins was capable of extraordinary feats of musical dexterity. At an 1865 concert in Philadelphia, for example, he astonished the crowd by playing "Fisher's Hornpipe" in C major with his right hand and "Yankee Doodle" in D major with his left, even as he sang "Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!" in C-sharp major.


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