What is Autism?

Autism is one of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In 2007, the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network found that the incidence of ASD in 8 year old children is now 1 in 150 in the United States. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD’s) include Autistic disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder—Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Rett Syndrome (which affects only girls) and autism.

Autism Spectrum Disorders impair three main areas of human development: speech, communication, and social interaction. These impairments may range from mild to severe. Individuals on the autism spectrum may lack speech altogether or may be delayed in their acquisition and use of language.

They may repeat words (echolalia) in place of normal verbal communication and they may recite entire lines of text from books, movies or computer games out of context for no apparent reason. Some individuals with autism never develop gestures such as pointing to requested objects or waving good-bye. Individuals with ASD’s may find it difficult or impossible to hold a conversation or may compulsively steer the conversation to one subject. In the area of social communication, there may be a lack of response to verbal requests or no response when the person’s name is called.

Similarly, they often fail to connect to the names for other people and they often confuse pronouns. Almost universally, individuals on the autistic continuum are unable to interpret facial expressions or emotions. They may establish only fleeting eye contact, if they any at all. They also often experience difficulty transitioning from one activity to another.

Many individuals with autism lack interest in socially interactions. For children, there can be a lack of imaginative play and a preference to engage in repetitive activities for extended periods of time such as rewinding videos, stacking blocks, or lining up toys. Many individuals on the spectrum are perceived to be aloof or indifferent to other people.
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What causes autism?

No one is sure what causes autism but research seems to suggest that it is caused by both genetic and environmental factors such as vaccines or environmental toxins.

Is there a cure?

At present, there is no known cure for autism. Researchers from the USA, Canada, and the UK hope to better understand the disorder’s biochemical origins and find a cure before 2010. Many parents find that their children’s symptoms and behaviors improve with the elimination of gluten and casein from diet and with the addition of nutritional supplements. Autism Today does not endorse any one method of treatment, but we are dedicated to examining the latest research and methods of treatments that allow you to make an informed choice.

Are you wondering whether a child you know may have autism?

Click here to take the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT)

Where can I get more information?

Educating yourself and others about autism is a critical way to enhance the wellbeing of individuals with autism.

We believe that grassroots advocacy and one-on-one “consciousness raising” helps society at large better understand the nature of this common developmental disorder and opens more doors of opportunity for people on the autism spectrum.

To request additional information or to find answers to other questions on autism, please click on any of the links below. Be sure, too, to visit our FAQ’s section.

Autism Resources