What is Autism?
Autism is a neurobiologically-based developmental disability that emerges during a child’s first three years of life. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders display marked impairments in communication and social relatedness and demonstrate a restricted range of interests and behavior. Significant deficits in language and socialization may place children with autism at risk for developing severe behavior problems such as tantrums, aggression, and self-injury.
Autism Defining Features
• Impairment in verbal and non-verbal communication
• Impairment in social interactions
• Restricted, repetitive, and stereotypy patterns of behaviors, interests, and activities
• Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. (Autism Society).
• Autism is more prevalent than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined (Autism Speaks).
• 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with autism (CDC).
• 1 in 48 boys is on the autism spectrum (CDC).
• Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism (CDC).
• There is no medical detection or cure for autism (CDC).
Some Characteristics of Autism
• Avoiding eye contact
• Delays in language
• Minimal interests in people or playing social games
• Does not point or use gestures
• No imaginative (pretend) play
• Does not respond to his/her name
• Inappropriate use of toys (e.g. spinning objects)
• Unusual fears (e.g. certain colors, sounds)
• Obsessive attachment to objects
• Laughs or giggles for no apparent reason
• Unaware of danger
• Resists change
• Resists learning
There are no medical tests for diagnosing Autism. Accurate diagnosis must be based on:
• Diagnostic Observation
• Interview of caregivers
Treatments for Autism
• There is no cure for Autism.
• While there is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment, scientific research has demonstrated that interventions based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) are the safest and most effective treatment for Autism. ABA is widely recognized by educators and professionals as the only intervention leading to comprehensive, lasting improvements in the lives of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. ABA has been endorsed by a number of state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Surgeon General and the New York State Department of Health.
Autism Long Term Prognosis
• Children do not outgrow autism, but symptoms may lessen as the child develops and receives treatment with early intensive behavioral intervention.
• With intensive intervention, some children with autism can learn and function normally in a regular education setting.
• Many children with autism can develop good functional language and others can develop some type of communication skills, such as sign language or use of pictures.