What is Autism?
Autism is a complex, pervasive neuro-developmental disorder (PDD), ranging from a severe form called autistic disorder to a milder form called Asperger Syndrome. It is called a spectrum disorder because each child is different and their level of impairment will vary along the range of this disorder. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can often be reliably detected by age 3, and in some cases as early as 18 months. The appearance of the warning signs of ASD is reason to have a child evaluated by a professional. Autism is characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills, social interactions and coordination. Other symptoms include repetitive, self-injurious behavior, poor eating and sleeping patterns, loss of eye contact, insensitivity to pain and stimuli, hyper/hypo activity, and attention deficit.
People with autism spectrum disorders tend to have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication and socialization. What most people do not know is that autism is considered treatable. Several studies have shown that early, intensive instruction using the methods of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can result in dramatic improvements.
Autism is growing by epidemic proportions. As the fasting growing disability, there are 1.77 million cases in the U.S. today. A new case is diagnosed every 20 minutes-24,000 new cases are discovered each year. In 2001, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that autism appeared in one in 500 births. Today, it is diagnosed in one in 110, appearing four times as often in boys. Yet funding for autism research is less than 5% of funding for less common childhood medical conditions. The annual economic impact of autism is more than $90 billion dollars and is expected to more than double in the next decade.
(See #712001 at www.cdc.gov/vaccines and www.nichd.nih.gov).