Autism spectrum disorder or ASD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others in the world around them. Symptoms of ASD include repetitive behaviors, interests, and activities, causing slight to significant impairment in social and occupational areas. Autism, just like anything else, is not one-size-fits all and each child’s journey is just as special and unique as he or she.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders now defines autism as “a single disorder that includes disorders that were previously considered separate-autism, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.”
Autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the United States, now affecting 1 in 68 children, specifically 1 in 42 boys, costing families on average $60,000 a year.
Some children show signs of having ASD as early as infancy while others may not demonstrate symptoms until later, becoming suddenly withdrawn, aggressive, or displaying a loss of learned language skills. Symptoms for each child are different, especially based on their level of severity; however, within the range or spectrum of symptoms, there are common behaviors, which include a myriad of patterns of behavior.
Although there has been much research done on ASD, it has been discovered that there is no single known cause. Given the severity in spectrum variety, researchers have concluded that both genetics and environment may play a role. However, with groups like Autism Speaks or with foundations like the HollyRod Foundation, a foundation created by Holly Robinson Peete in honor of her son, that provides technological, therapeutic, and emotional support for families, researchers are determined to push the envelope even further to bring life enhancing change to the world of ASD.
Although there is no cure for autism, with education, inclusion, and research, the community as a whole, can make a big difference in the lives of many. To discover more about ASD, visit the Autism Speaks website or the HollyRod Foundation.