What Is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD affects every race, gender, creed, and socio-economic background, and has no outward visual signs. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes.

  • Autism is a spectrum disorder in that a person can be impacted mildly or severely and anywhere in between. People with autism are unique individuals because they can have high skills in one area and high needs in another.
  • Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is applied based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity.
  • In April 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The data in this report come from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network – a tracking system that provides estimates of the prevalence and characteristics of autism spectrum disorder among more than 300,000 8-year-old children. ADDM is the largest population-based program to monitor autism and the only autism tracking system that examines health and education records.The latest estimate of 1.7 percent (1 in 59) is higher than the previous ADDM estimate released in 2016, which found a prevalence of 1.5 percent or 1 in 68 children. Some of the change in prevalence could be due to improved autism identification in minority populations – although autism is still more likely to be identified in white children than in black or Hispanic children.