About Autism Spectrum Disorder

ASD developmental disability

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. ASD generally refers to several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.

Individuals with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. While the outward appearance of individuals with ASD does not necessarily set them apart, individuals with ASD often communicate, interact, behave, and/or learn in different ways. The range of signs, symptoms, and disabilities, is as varied as each unique individual diagnosed with ASD.

Challenges Developing Social, Emotional, and Communication Skills

Individuals with ASD often have challenges developing social, emotional, and communication skills. They frequently have challenges in communicating with others, they might repeat certain behaviors, or may be reluctant to changes in their daily activities. Signs of ASD usually begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life. However, with support and treatment, children and young adults with ASD can learn important skills and lead happy, productive, and rewarding lives.

Population with ASD

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that about 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed with ASD.  However, a National Health Interview Survey in 2014 suggested that as many as 1 in 45 children in the U.S. – or about 2.2% of children – may be living with austism.

Moreover, the percentage of those identified as having autism soared by as much as 250% across age groups over the last 10-year period, the U. S. Department of Education has estimated, making  autism one of the fastest-growing serious developmental disorders in the United States.

Intellectual Ability

Yet research has also demonstrated that almost half (46%) of children identified with ASD have average or above average intellectual ability, and many children within the autism spectrum are quite gifted and exhibit extraordinary innate skills, such as:

  • Ability to learn things in detail and remember detailed information for long periods of time
  • Strong visual and auditory learners
  • Excel in math, science, music, or art

And today, as thousands of young people on the spectrum head into adulthood, many families are left to navigate a complicated and fragmented system of disability services with little guidance or assistance. An estimated 50,000 teens on the autism spectrum become adults each year and no longer have access to school-based special education services.

However, with increasing awareness among educators, elected officials, and mental health professionals, the goal of self-determination for adolescents and young adults with ASD is more attainable than ever before.

Other Facts About ASD

  • ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups
  • ASD is significantly more common among boys than among girls (1 in 42 vs. 1 in 189)
  • About one-third of people with autism remain nonverbal
  • Around one-third of people with autism have an intellectual disability
  • Other medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism and can include gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety

Autism Spectrum Disorder Resources