Facts About Autism
What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), is a general term for a group of five complex, brain-based disorders that affect a person’s behavior as well as social and communication skills. The Centers for Disease Control describes ASDs as: “developmental disabilities that cause substantial impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests. Many people with ASDs also have unusual ways of learning, paying attention, and reacting to different sensations. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary—from gifted to severely challenged. An ASD begins before the age of 3 and lasts throughout a person’s life.”
What causes Autism?
According to the Autism Speaks website, there is no known single cause for autism, although the best available science points to important genetic components.” In the presence of a genetic predisposition to autism, a number of non-genetic, or “environmental,” stresses appear to further increase a child’s risk. The clearest evidence of these autism risk factors involves events before and during birth. It is important to keep in mind that these factors, by themselves, do not cause autism. Rather, in combination with genetic risk factors, they appear to modestly increase risk.”
How common is Autism?
Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 68 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years. Careful research shows that this increase is only partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. Studies also show that autism is four to five times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States.
What are the early warning signs of Autism?
Though autism cannot be definitively diagnosed until around 18 to 24 months, research shows that children as young as 8 to 12 months may exhibit early signs. Parents should look for the following symptoms:
What are treatment options for Autism?
Scientists agree that the earlier in life a child receives early intervention services the better the child’s prognosis. All children with autism can benefit from early intervention, and some may gain enough skills to be able to attend mainstream school. As soon as autism is diagnosed, early intervention instruction should begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.
The most effective treatments available today are applied behavioral analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and pharmacological therapy. Treatment works to minimize the impact of the core features and associated deficits of ASD and to maximize functional independence and quality of life.