What is autism?

Autism is a neurological disorder that causes impairments in communication, ability to learn, and social relatedness. Autism usually strikes during the first three years of a child's life. Parents often tell of a normal talkative child who suddenly seems to disappear before their eyes. The cause of autism is unknown.

What is a "spectrum disorder"?

Autism is a spectrum disorder where symptoms and characteristics can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe and in any combination. A high functioning individual with autism might simply seem eccentric, a loner. More severely affected individuals may hardly communicate and prefer to function primarily in "their own world". Most individuals fall in the middle of the spectrum.

What traits may a typical person with autism exhibit?

It is important to know the signs of a person who might be diagnosed with autism. Here are some traits that a typical person with autism may exhibit (Autism Society of America):
    •    Insistence on sameness; resistance to change
    •    Difficulty in expressing needs, using gestures instead of words
    •    Repeating words or phrases in place of normal, responsive language
    •    Preference to being alone; aloof manner
    •    Tantrums
    •    Difficulty in mixing with others
    •    Not wanting to cuddle or be cuddled
    •    Little or no eye contact
    •    Laughing (and/or crying) for no apparent reason showing distress for reasons not apparent to others
    •    Unresponsive to normal teaching methods
    •    Sustained odd play
    •    Spinning objects
    •    Obsessive attachment to objects
    •    Apparent over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to pain
    •    No real fears of danger
    •    Noticeable physical over-activity or extreme under-activity
    •    Uneven gross/fine motor skills
    •    Non responsive to verbal cues; acts as if deaf, although hearing tests in normal range.

Keep in mind that because autism is a spectrum disorder, a person with autism may show all, some, or few of these traits. Not every person with autism shows the same signs. If you are concerned that your child is showing signs of autism consult your child’s pediatrician.

What are the known statistics of Autism?

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) reported that approximately 1 in 68 children in the United States has been identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Rate remains the same as in 2014, which is the first time in has not risen. However, with respect to older data, this new estimate is roughly 30 percent higher than the previous estimate of 1 in 88 children reported in 2012. Autism continues to be more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189) and they are reported in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

What medical advances are being made for autism?

Autism has a long history of neglect by medical science. But for the first time the National Institute of Health is allocating research dollars to study autism and attract new scientists to investigate the disorder. One of the most exciting and rapidly advancing areas of study is genetic research.

What is the most effective educational approach for children with autism?

Today most experts believe an "early and intensive behavior intervention program" using a combination of teaching procedures is necessary to have a child reach their full potential. A full assessment of the child's strengths and deficits should direct the child's program.

Autism Resource Links

Autism Society of America

Clinical Practice Guideline - Report of the Guideline Recommendations - Autism / Pervasive Developmental Disorders

National Alliance for Autism Research

Cure Autism Now

Autism Today

Autism Resources

Vaccines and Autism Theory

National Institute of Mental Health - Autism Spectrum Disorders (Pervasive Developmental Disorders)

Center for the Study of Autism

Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Best Practice Guidelines for Screening, Diagnosis and Assessment

Autism Research at the NICHD

The Etiology of Autism and NICHD Research

Centers for Disease Control - Autism Topic Home