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What Is Autism?
Autism, or autism spectrum disorders (ASD’s), are lifelong developmental disabilities, with no known cause or cure.
ASD’s refer to a range of neurobiological disorders that interfere to varying degrees with normal development in language and social interactions, and are characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests.
Many children with autism have a reduced sensitivity to pain, but are abnormally sensitive to sound, touch, or other environmental sensory stimulation. These unusual reactions may contribute to behavioral symptoms.
Individuals with autism may have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can’t understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions, and don’t watch other people’s faces for clues about appropriate behavior.
The spectrum includes individuals diagnosed with "classic" autism, high-functioning autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) and Aspergers Syndrome.
The disorder affects individuals from all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The Center for Disease Control states “Based on parent reports, the prevalence of diagnosed ASD in 2011–2012 was estimated to be 2.00% for children aged 6–17. This prevalence estimate (1 in 50) is significantly higher than the estimate (1.16%, or 1 in 86) for children in that age group in 2007.” (CDC, 2013 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr065.pdf)
The number of cases of autism now surpasses that of all types of pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.
In California the number of students with autism grew by 95.6% from 1996 to 1999 and by 275% from 1996 to 2002. This striking growth rate indicates that the number of students that are being identified as autistic has been nearly doubling every three years (American Institutes for Research, 2003). It is important to realize that these figures are for children diagnosed and receiving services. Many others fall through the cracks.