Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities. One should keep in mind, however, that autism is a spectrum disorder and it affects each individual differently and at varying degrees — this is why early diagnosis is so crucial. By learning the signs, a child can begin benefiting from one of the many intervention programs.
Autism is the most common of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders, affecting an estimated one in 68 children (Centers for Disease Control Prevention, 2012). This is a dramatic increase from one in 10,000 just 25 years ago. Roughly translated, this means as many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism. And this number is on the rise.
Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and other governmental agencies, autism is growing at a startling rate of 10 to 17 percent per year. At this rate, the ASA estimates that the prevalence of autism could reach 4 million Americans in the next decade.
Autism knows no racial, ethnic, social boundaries, family income, lifestyle or educational levels and can affect any family and any child. Although the overall incidence of autism is consistent around the globe, it is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls.