3. What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder are any of a group of neurodevelopmental
disorders that lead to impaired language, communication, and social skills.
About 1 in 88 children in the United States are now affected, Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (23% increase from last report in 2009)
Males are 4 more times more likely than girls to have ASD
4. What causes Autism?
Autism has no single cause.
A number of genes play a role in the disorder. In some children,
environmental factors also may play a role in development of the disorder.
Studies of people with autism have found abnormalities in several regions
of the brain, including the cerebellum, amygdala, hippocampus, septum,
and mammillary bodies.
Neurons in these regions appear smaller than normal and have stunted
nerve fibers, which may interfere with nerve signaling.
These abnormalities suggest that autism results from disruption of normal
brain development early in fetal development.
Other studies suggest that people with autism have abnormalities of
serotonin or other signaling molecules in the brain.
5. Types of Autism
This is what most people think of when they hear the word "autism." It
refers to problems with social interactions, communication, and
imaginative play in children younger than 3 years.
Children don't have a problem with language -- in fact, they tend to score
in the average or above-average range on intelligence tests. But they
have the same social problems and limited scope of interests as children
with autistic disorder.
Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) also known as atypical autism.
Children who have some autistic behaviors but who don't fit into other
Occurs mainly in girls, children start developing normally but begin to
lose their communication and social skills. Beginning at the age of 1 to 4
years, repetitive hand movements replace purposeful use of the hands.
Childhood disintegrative disorder
Children develop normally for at least two years and then lose some or
most of their communication and social skills.
6. How do we know if someone has Autism?
Diagnostic guidelines for autism - The American Association of
Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
Behavioral questionnaires/additional diagnostic tests that focus on
children younger than age 3
Developmental and intelligence tests
Physical assessments and laboratory tests
Testing for lead poisoning
Behavioral training and management
Use positive reinforcement, self-help, and social skills training to
improve behavior and communication
Includes speech, occupational, and physical therapy
Treats depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, and obsessive-compulsive
Community support and parent training
8. How is Autism misdiagnosed?
As autistic symptoms often manifest as a person matures, it is often very
difficult to diagnose in a younger child.
A diagnosis of autism offers a variety of resources to help parents of an
autistic child cope with the devastating effects of the condition.
Mild cases of autism are often misdiagnosed, even by doctors, and it’s
important that autism be diagnosed by well informed individuals.
Parents that recognize autistic symptoms in their child, often jump to
conclusions before speaking with a doctor.
9. Costs of Autism
The cost of providing care for a person with autism in the U.S. is an
estimated $1.4 million over their lifetime
For those who are impacted with intellectual disabilities (with an IQ of 70
or less) -- nearly half of the autistic population -- the cost jumps to $2.3
Families with autistic children also earn 28% less compared to families
whose children do not have health limitations.
The total annual cost to the U.S. is estimated to be $137 billion
One family spends $1,000 out of pocket each month for therapies
Another family has spent nearly $200,000 in the eight years
A third family spends $9,000 - $10,000 a year on un-reimbursed medical
Direct medical and nonmedical costs can add up to as much as $72,000 a
year for someone with an extreme case of the disorder, and even $67,000
a year for those on the lower end of the spectrum (Harvard School of