What Is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurobiological condition that can affect the normal function of the gastrointestinal, immune, hepatic, endocrine and nervous systems. It impacts normal brain development leaving most individuals with communication problems, difficulty with typical social interactions and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behaviour. There is also a markedly restricted repertoire of activity and interests.
The term “spectrum” refers to a continuum of severity or developmental impairment. Children and adults with ASDs usually have particular characteristics in common, but the conditions cover a wide spectrum, with individual differences in:
- Number and particular kinds of symptoms
- Severity: mild to severe
- Age of onset
- Levels of functioning
- Challenges with social interactions
According to the latest estimates (March 2014) from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1 in 68 8-year old children in the United States has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This represents a 30% increase in the prevalence rate previously reported by the CDC.
Individuals on the autism spectrum tend to have varying degrees and combinations of symptoms and therefore treatment must be specific to the individual. It is also important to keep in mind that individuals with autism vary widely in their needs, skills and abilities.
There is no standard “type” or “typical” person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Knowing the early signs that lead to early diagnosis can lead to optimal outcomes.