About Autism

Autism  spectrum disorder  is a complex developmental disability that typically  appears during the  first three years of life and affects a person’s  ability to communicate  and interact with others. Autism is defined by a  certain set of  behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects  individuals  differently and to varying degrees. There is no known  single cause of  autism, but increased awareness and funding can help  families today.  Some of the behaviors associated with autism include  delayed learning of  language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a  conversation;  difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to  reasoning and  planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’  and sensory  sensitivities.

Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many  of these behaviors or  just a few, or many others besides. The diagnosis  of autism spectrum  disorder is applied based on analysis of all  behaviors and their  severity. In March 2014, the Centers for Disease  Control and Prevention  issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The  report concluded that  the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every  68 births in the  United States – nearly twice as great as the 2004 rate  of 1 in 125 –  and almost 1 in 54 boys. The spotlight shining on autism  as a result  has opened opportunities for the nation to consider how to  serve  families facing a lifetime of supports for their children. In June   2014, researchers estimated the lifetime cost of caring for a child   with autism is as great as $2.4 million. The Autism Society estimates   that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs   for autism. (This figure includes research, insurance costs and   non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational  spending,  housing, transportation, employment, related therapeutic  services and  caregiver costs.) Know the signs: Early identification can change lives
​​Autism  is treatable. Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies  show that  early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly  improved  outcomes. For more information on developmental milestones,  visit the  CDC’s “Know the Signs. Act Early” site. Here are some signs to look for in the children in your life:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects