Keith and Karen Colvin are the parents of a musical genius. At two and half, their son Matthew could hum Igor Stravinski's "Rite of Spring," which he'd heard on the Disney video Fantasia. Shortly thereafter, he was singing the theme song of "Winnie the Pooh."
Nonetheless, it took three weeks of intensive training to teach four-year-old Matthew to sit in a chair and look his mother in the eye. Matthew has PDD, commonly known as autism.
What is Autism?
Autism is a neurological disorder that affects brain development for reasoning, social interaction, and communication skills. Autism is not the same as mental retardation; often autistic people are extremely brilliant in certain areas. (Albert Einstein, Colvin said, was supposedly mildly autistic.)
One autism expert used the example of a computer: autistic children have large hard drives with faulty processors, so that they can retain and store a great deal of information, yet have problems processing that information. Average people have better processors, but smaller hard drives, so they process information better, but don't retain as much or as well.
Signs of Autism
Some of the typical signs of autism are slow or non-existent language development, distaste or inability to interact with others even with something as basic as establishing eye contact, unusual reactions to physical sensations (especially touch), lack of spontaneous or imaginative play (autistic children will twirl the wheels of a car rather than move them across the floor, for example), and being over-reactive or over-passive.