What is Autism?

pic-boyincircleAutism is a neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout an individual’s lifetime. Currently, 1 in 150 individual’s is diagnosed with autism.

ASD is more common than cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. ASD has the same amount of occurrences in racial, ethnic and social groups. However, ASD affects more boys than girls. Autism affects an individual’s ability to communicate and relate to people. There are specific actions or behaviors that are specifically related to ASD and the way that Autism affects each individual is different. This creates a spectrum of the disorder with severe to mild challenges that can be seen.

Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital first discovered the disorder of Autism in 1943. Autism and related disorders are listed in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). There are five developmental disorders that fall under the autism spectrum disorders. The others are Asperger’s, Rett Syndrome, PDD NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. All of these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, and by repetitive type behaviors.

ASD is usually diagnosed by age 3, but further advancements in research are leading to earlier diagnosis. Parents or pediatricians are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child’s failure to master developmental milestones. There my also be indications that children develop at typical rates and then show regression or loss of skills. With development, there is a range of what would be considered typical, and in some cases professionals may recommend to wait and allow the child to catch up to their peers. There may be some indications recently that show waiting is not the right choice. Parents have a greater understanding of their children than any professional can provide, so if you have concerns, have your child evaluated.

If you or someone you know has a child that has been diagnosed or suspected of ASD, do not hesitate to receive services. Early intervention is crucial to the long-term outcome of a child diagnosed with ASD. Research has shown significant affects on level of abilities with the implementation of early intervention. The most effective programs focus on communication, cognitive, interaction and social skills.