“Autism” (or “autism spectrum disorder” also known as “ASD”) refers to a disorder currently diagnosed through symptoms, which involve difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
Until the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, the autism spectrum included five distinct subgroups: autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. Under DSM-5, all autism disorders are merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD.
Autism affects all racial, ethnic, and socio-enomic groups. However, it is 4-5 times more likely in boys than in girls.
Symptoms for autism typically appear between 10-18 months of age. Unfortunately, the average age of diagnosis is 4-years-old. A diagnosis is usually made by a developmental pediatrician. Typically, there is a waiting list for appointments to get this diagnosis.
The rate of autism has increased dramatically over the past two decades. When Project HOPE Foundation first started, the rate was 1 in 2,500. The current rate is 1 in 68 children, 1 in 42 boys. Although we now have better diagnostics and increased awareness, these improvements do not account for the marked increase.
About 25% of individuals with autism are nonverbal. Thankfully, many can be taught to communicate in other ways, including augmentative communication devices.
It is estimated that 50% of individuals with autism elope (wander away). It is imperative to work on safety skills with this population.
People with autism have an increased risk of seizures. Additionally, many experience gastrointestinal issues, sleep disorders, sensory processing difficulties, and food sensitivities.