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What is Autism?

Learn more about this mysterious, debilitating and increasingly more prevalent disease.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability affecting learning, verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction. An incurable but treatable neurological disorder, autism occurs in all racial, ethnic and social groups. There is no single cause for the disorder; genetics may be a factor, as well as viral infections (before or after birth), environmental toxins or delivery complications.

Like any biological disorder, autism varies in severity, from mild to mentally and physically disabling. Children with mild autistic symptoms may fixate on a favorite subject, resist any change in routine or speak inappropriately or in loud monotones. With severe autism, a family may have a child who can't speak, hurts himself, flaps her hands or limbs, screams instead of sleeping at night or is upset by the slightest sensory stimulation. Diagnosticians often refer to wide range of the disorder as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One trait that all people with autism share to some degree is an inability to interpret other people's behavior.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimate the number of those affected at 1 in 500, a number much greater than initial studies indicated. Diagnostic improvements and a broader definition of autism have often been used to explain this increase; however, there is strong evidence that the rate of autism is dramatically increasing.

Each person with autism is different, with a unique personality and set of challenges. Some adults with autism live and work independently, some need support for daily pressures and others depend heavily on family and professionals.





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