Autism is a complex developmental disability, typically appearing during the first three years of life. It is the result of a complex neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.
Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that although it is defined by a certain set of behaviors, children and adults with autism can exhibit any combination of these behaviors in any degree of severity. Therefore two children with the same diagnosis may differ greatly in their behavior, their capabilities, and their needs. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) includes classic autism, as well as Asperger syndrome and the less specific classification of pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). For the purposes here, ASD and the more general term “autism” will be considered equivalent and used interchangeably.
While there is no single cause or cure for autism, it is treatable. Children do not outgrow autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.
Every person diagnosed with an ASD is different, and every family has different needs. The variety of services and resources available in Indiana is broad, including financial assistance, advocacy, parent and sibling support, education, training, and respite care. Autism is the most common Pervasive Developmental Disorder, affecting one in 96 people annually. This translates to over 1.5 million Americans, and the numbers are growing.
The challenge is that while 10 children can be diagnosed with autism, the autism can manifest itself in many different forms. For example, some children may be higher functioning at a cognitive level, but may have very poor social skills. Some children might have strong verbal skills while others have no verbal skills whatsoever. Additionally, some people may have multiple diagnosis that include: ADHD, OCD, ADD, Bi-Polar Disorder, Downs Syndrome, or any combination of these. Because of these gross differences, it is virtually impossible for two people on the spectrum to take the same path to wellness.