“First, like all children, no two autistic children are alike. What may work successfully for one will not work for another.... The goal is to observe and find the specific pattern of responses each child exhibits, then move from there.”

–Temple Grandin



What is autism?

Autism, part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. The disorder is characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, and also by repetitive behaviors. Symptoms range from mild to severe. One milder form of the disorder is known as Asperger's Syndrome. Other developmental disorders that fall under the Autism Spectrum Disorders are Rett Syndrome, PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified), and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child's failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills. If you have concerns about your child's development, don't wait: speak to your pediatrician about getting your child screened for autism.

What does it mean to be “on the spectrum”?

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means it can reveal itself in many different forms. A diagnosis can range from mild to severe, and though children on the spectrum are likely to exhibit similar traits, each case is different. Symptoms range from an inability to speak, to sensitivity to touch (sensory) to extremely high-functioning (Asperger’s).

How common is autism?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects as many as 1 in every 68 children in the United States with the rate rising 10-17% annually. It is estimated that 1.5 million Americans may be affected with autism. Recent studies suggest boys are more susceptible than girls to developing autism with 1 out of 70 suspected of being on the spectrum. However, girls appear to manifest a more severe form of the disorder than their male counterparts.

How did my child develop autism?

No one knows for sure what causes autism. Recent studies suggest a genetic link for autism where up to 20 sets of genes may play a part in its development. Genetics alone, however, do not explain the rise so scientists are tirelessly looking into other biological and environmental triggers.