Autism

Overview

Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autism is a brain-based disorder that affects a person’s social interaction, communication and causes other behavioral patterns that interfere with daily functioning.

Characteristics

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Autism are both terms applied to a complex group of brain disorders. Signs of ASD appear before three years of age and is considered a lifelong disorder. Autism is characterized by an inability to form emotional ties including a lack of responsiveness to other people. Language skills in children with autism are delayed, abnormal or absent. Language problems are typically present by the second year of life. A third area of concern for children with autism is the presence of repetitive movements and routines that are distinctly different from other children.

Intellectual ability among children with autism varies greatly from intellectual disability to average intelligence and above. Children with ASD may also have motor coordination difficulties, attention and physical health issues including gastrointestinal disturbances.

Other co-existing conditions are often associated with autism. These others can include, but are not limited to, problems processing sensory information, sleep disorder, underlying genetic syndromes such as Fragile X, or seizure disorder.

Incidence

The incidence of autism is estimated to be 1 in 68 children born in the United States. Autism is four to five times more common in boys than in girls with 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls diagnosed with ASD. More than 3 million people in the U.S. are affected by ASD.

With the publication of best practice standards for clinical screening, diagnosis and assessment of children suspected of having autism, accuracy of the diagnostic process has improved significantly.

Outlook

Because many of the symptoms of ASD are shared with several other childhood disorders, formal diagnostic evaluation is needed by a qualified psychologist or developmental pediatrician to ensure an accurate diagnosis. The earlier the disorder is diagnosed, the sooner the child can be helped through treatment interventions. Reliable diagnoses can typically be achieved by age 3 years.

Each child with ASD is different. Some go on to live full, independent lives. Others are unable to live independently and have significant disabilities. Because the term “Autism Spectrum Disorder” is an umbrella term, people with Autism are often spoken of as being “on the spectrum” reflecting the range of impact that Autism can have on a person’s daily life and abilities.

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