Autism Spectrum Disorder
Parents and professionals use the term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to describe to a group of pervasive developmental conditions. ASD includes Autistic Disorder/Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified).
“1 in every 100-110 children is diagnosed with an ASD “
ASD is more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and paediatric AIDS combined. Approximately 1 in every 100-110 children is diagnosed with ASD and it is more prevalent in boys than girls.
In the US there is an estimated 1.5 million individuals with an ASD, with current estimates that 1 in every 70 boys is diagnosed with the condition.
Worldwide, tens of millions of children and adults are affected by ASDs and statistics indicate that ASD is increasing at between 10% and 17% annually.
There is no established explanation for this increase, although improved diagnosis and environmental influences are two reasons often considered.
The signs and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder may be apparent by the time the child is aged 12-18 months, and the behavioural characteristics of the condition are almost always evident by the time the child is aged 3 years old. Although ASD is a complex developmental disorder, there are three defining core features:
- Problems with social interactions
- Difficulties communicating
- Difficulties with imagination or flexibility of thought
There is often also a pattern of repetitive behaviour with narrow, restricted interests apparent. A number of other associated symptoms frequently coexist and most people with an ASD have problems using language, forming relationships, and appropriately interpreting and responding to the external world around them. Children with less severe characteristics may not be diagnosed until they are older. Autism disorder persists throughout the person’s lifetime, although early intervention can have major benefits in assisting individuals to overcome problems and ongoing support and therapies can assist all individuals with an ASD to maximise their quality of life.
The cause of ASD is not known. The condition varies and no two people with an ASD are exactly alike. It is suspected that there may be multiple causes which might be a combination of genetic components and undetermined environmental factors. Essentially the causes are still a mystery to be solved and significant research is needed. One thing is certain: it is NOT caused by bad parenting. The world is still recovering from the myths about ASDs from 50 years ago and this has created a generation of parents who carried the tremendous burden of guilt for their children’s disability. Now the medical community is starting to get to work on the problems, and a better understanding of the condition is spreading slowly.