Infantile Autism

Laura Schreibman, University of California - San Diego
Robert L. Koegel, University of California - Santa Barbara
Marjorie H. Charlop, Claremont McKenna College
Andrew L. Egel, University of Maryland - College Park


Autism is a severe form of psychopathology in childhood and is characterized, in general, by severe withdrawal and lack of social behavior, severe language and attentional deficits, and the presence of bizarre, repetitive behaviors (J. K. Wing, 1966). The severity of the behavioral deficits and excesses in such children frequently causes great turmoil in the family, affecting not only the lives of the child and immediate family, but the community as well. Autism occurs approximately in one out of every 2,500 children and is often not diagnosed until the child is between 1 and 5 years of age. Although there are currently many theories relating to the etiology of the disorder, there is no consistent evidence in support of any one of them (Egel, Koegel, & Schreibman, 1980; Schreibman, 1988). Most professionals, however, now take the position that autism is of organic etiology and that the disorder is probably present from birth. The nature and range of deficits associated with the disorder make it resistant to most forms of treatment intervention.