Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopment disorder that typically appears during early childhood and can affect a person’s ability to communicate, interact with others and may affect daily functioning. The individual with the disorder may display repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior. 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 and intense interests, poor motor skills and sensory sensitivities. An individual on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides. The cause for autism is still unknown, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention with access to appropriate services/supports can lead to significantly improved outcomes.
The term “spectrum” means that individuals are affected differently with varying degrees. Each individual diagnosed will have a different set of skills and functioning level. Some children and adults with autism are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require significant support. Autism doesn’t discriminate, it occurs in every racial and ethnic group, across all socioeconomic levels. However, boys are significantly more likely to develop autism than girls. The latest analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children has ASD.