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What is Autism?
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Autism Facts
• Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S.
• Autism now affects one out of every 150 people in the U.S.
• Autism is four times more common in boys than girls.
• Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups.
• There is no medical test to diagnose autism and autism has no cure.

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder. It involves delays in language and communication, social interaction, and play. It also affects a range of emotional, cognitive, motor, and sensory abilities.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)
Autism is an “umbrella” term for a wide range of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). These are also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs). ASD or PDD is often referred to as a spectrum disorder. That’s because it causes combinations of delays with a range of severity. In other words, no two children diagnosed with autism will have the same behaviors. Each has a unique personality and set of traits. So each child requires an individualized treatment approach to support strengths and target challenges.

These are disorders that fall within the diagnostic category of ASD or PDD:

  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS): This is sometimes referred to as high-functioning, mild, or atypical autism. With PDD-NOS, a person does not meet the full criteria for an autism diagnosis.
  • Rett syndrome: Children with Rett syndrome have a loss of skills after a period of typical development. The child develops hand-wringing and may lose purposeful hand movements over time. Receptive vocabulary and expressive vocabulary language and gross motor delays also occur with the disorder.
  • Asperger’s syndrome: This syndrome results in big delays in social abilities. However, a child learns language in a way similar to peers. People with Asperger’s usually have normal to high IQs, but very restricted areas of interest. You may also notice sensory integration behaviors that are not typical.
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder: Typical development occurs for at least the first two years of life. This is followed by a marked regression in at least two of these areas: expressive or receptive language, social skills or adaptive behavior, bowel or bladder control, or play or motor skills.

A child with autism usually receives a diagnosis by three years of age. However, some parents observe symptoms as early as six months. Parents are often the first to notice atypical behaviors or delays in reaching developmental milestones. In fact, research has shown that parents are very accurate reporters of their child’s development. If you suspect that your child may have delays, speak with a pediatrician right away about an autism screening. Early diagnosis and intervention are critical in helping your child reach his or her greatest potential.

Resources

www.autismspeaks.org The website of Autism Speaks, an international organization involved with funding research and raising awareness about autism.

http://www.autismspeaks.org/community/family_services/100_day_kit.php The Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit for newly diagnosed families to make the best possible use of the first 100 days following the diagnosis of autism.

http://www.nichcy.org/Disabilities/Specific/Pages/Autism.aspx#WhatisAutism.aspx National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities article on autism

http://www.autism-society.org The website of the Autism Society of America, which provides information and referrals, raises awareness, and supports research about autism.

 
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