Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is applied based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity.
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report that concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 59 births in the United States –twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 – and almost 1 in 54 boys.
Learn the signs: Early identification can change lives
Autism is treatable. Individuals with autism do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes. Here are some signs to look for:
- Lack of or delay in spoken language
- Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
- Little or no eye contact
- Lack of interest in peer relationships
- Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
- Persistent fixation on parts of objects
To learn more about autism contact the Autism Society.