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What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.

ASD actually refers to many different conditions that are characterized by developmental delays. These delays affect social skills, speech and nonverbal communication. There is no "one size fits all" diagnosis or treatment for the condition as there are many different types of autism. That's why you often hear the word "spectrum" being used to describe autism. This means that people with autism can possess differing symptoms and each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. 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.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) comprises four autism diagnoses that include:

  1. autistic disorder,
  2. childhoold disintegrative disorder,
  3. pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and
  4. Asperger syndrome 

How prevalent is Autism? 

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that autism affects 1 in 36 children in the United States today.