What is Autism?
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). The other pervasive developmental disorders are PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified), Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Many parents and professionals refer to this group as Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Recent research has revealed that symptoms of autism may be present as early as 6-12 months of age. The earliest symptoms include a pronounced lack of social orienting, failure to respond to name, and lack of a social smile. By the second year of development, there may be limited eye contact, odd or unusual repetitive use of objects or toys, delayed or absent speech development as well as a preference to play along.
How Common is Autism?
In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network determined that approximately 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with autism in the United States. This makes autism more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. An estimated 1.5 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide are affected by autism. Government statistics suggest the prevalence rate of autism is increasing 10-17 percent annually. There is not established explanation for this increase, although improved diagnosis and environmental influences are two reasons often considered. Studies suggest boys are more likely than girls to develop autism and receive the diagnosis 4.5 times more frequently. Current estimates are that in the United States alone, one out of 42 boys is diagnosed with autism.
There are many helpful resources regarding autism and autism spectrum disorders with new research information added almost daily. If you are a parent navigating this ever-changing diagnosis, we hope the following links may be of some assistance in this challenging journey. Please note we have no affiliation, recommendation or sponsorship with these groups or agencies.
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National Institute of Mental Health
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Autism Spectrum Disorder – A Medical Guide