Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Today, one in 68 individuals is diagnosed with autism (1 in 42 boys), making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls.
Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe. Autism Spectrum Disorders can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3, although new research is pushing back the age of diagnosis to as early as six months. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills.
If you have concerns about your child's development, don't wait. Speak to your pediatrician about getting your child screened for autism. If your child is diagnosed with autism, early intervention is critical to gaining the maximum benefit from existing therapies. Currently, there are no effective means to prevent autism, no fully effective treatments, and no cure. Research indicates, however, that early intervention in an appropriate educational setting for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements for many young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. As soon as autism is diagnosed, early intervention instruction should begin.