Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve is completely unique to that individual. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.
Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues.
Indicators of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier, and often, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.
- 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 54 children is diagnosed with autism. (CDC)
- 1 in 34 boys is on the autism spectrum. (CDC)
- Boys are nearly four times more likely than girls to have autism. (CDC)
- Most children are still being diagnosed after age 4, though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2.
- Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
- Minority groups tend to be diagnosed later and less often.
- Early intervention affords the best opportunity to support healthy development and deliver benefits across the lifespan.
- There is no medical detection for autism (CDC).