Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communications, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.

According to a report from the Center for Disease Control in March of 2012, the prevalence of autism has risen to 1 in 88 births in the United States. It affects 1 in 54 boys - five times more often than it affects girls. In the United States, more than 1,500,000 individuals live with autism.

Autism is considered a spectrum disorder because the number and intensity of the symptoms may vary widely. Those severely affected are often withdrawn, dependent on others, and suffer from cognitive impairments. Those with less severe cases are often of above-average intelligence and independent, yet lack in social-communication skills. Autism falls under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). The five disorders under PDD are: Classic Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), and Rett Syndrome.




Classic Autism

Classic autism affects a person's ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the environment. Some people with classic autism are high functioning and have the ability to speak and interact with others. Others are more severely affected and may be non-verbal with cognitive impairments.

Asperger Syndrome

Individuals with Asperger Syndrome do not usually have a delay in spoken language development. However, they can have serious deficits in social and communication skills. People with this neurobiological disorder often have repetitive and ritualistic routines, as well as preoccupations with a particular subject matter. 

Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

Also known as "atypical autism", PDD/NOS is a diagnosis often considered for children who show some symptoms of autism but who do not meet the specific diagnostic criteria for the other Pervasive Developmental Disorders. 

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)

Also known as "regressive autism," children with Childhood Disintegrative Disorder typically develop normally for two to four years before developing a condition that resembles autism. Typically language, interest in the social environment, and often toileting and self-care abilities are lost, and there may be a general loss of interest in the environment. 

Rett Syndrome

Rett Syndrome is a complex neurological disorder that primarily affects girls. It is genetic in origin. Individuals with Rett Syndrome generally develop normally until 6 to 18 months of age, at which point a developmental regression is observed. This regression is followed by a deceleration of head growth, loss of purposeful hand movements, and followed by the appearance of midline, stereotypic hand movements. In addition, social, language, motor, and cognitive skills may be severely impaired. 





Some common characteristics include: 


·       Lack of interest in peer relationships

·       Little or no eye contact

·       Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play

·       Persistent fixation on parts of objects

·       Difficulty in using and understanding language

·       Poorly-developed social skills

·       Over- or under-sensitivity to sound, sight, taste, touch or smell

·       Repetitive behaviors such as rocking or spinning objects

·       Difficulty with changes to routine or surroundings

·       Hyperactivity

·       Aggression, self-injury, or severe withdrawal




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