Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is refers to a group of developmental disabilities-including classic autism pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PPD-NOS), and Asperger’s Syndrome—that affect a person’s ability to understand what they see, hear, and otherwise sense. It is a brain disorder that impacts communication, social interaction, and behavior. Individuals with ASD typically have difficulty understanding verbal and nonverbal communication and learning appropriate ways of relating to other people, objects, and events. No two people with ASD are the same. As its name implies, ASD is a spectrum disorder that affects individuals differently and with varying degrees of severity. Additionally, ASD is often found in combination with other disabilities.
 
What Causes Autism
Although it was first identified in 1943, to this day no one knows exactly what causes ASD. However, research to discover its cause is ongoing. Many researchers believe that there is a strong genetic component. Some research suggests a physical problem affecting the parts of the brain that process language and information; other research points to an imbalance of brain chemicals. A variety of possible external or environmental triggers are also being studied. It is possible that ASD is caused by a combination of several factors.
 
How Common is Autism
Autism spectrum disorder is the second most common developmental disability following mental retardation. ASD is more common than childhood cancer, cystic ? brosis, and multiple sclerosis combined. It is estimated that one out of every 166 people born today has some form of ASD. This means that approximately 1.5 million Americans (children and adults) have ASD today, and that more than 15 million Americans (loved ones, caregivers, educators, and healthcare professionals) are directly impacted by the disorder.

…with individualized treatment, education, and support; children and adults with ASD can improve and develop skills that will allow them to live and participate in their community.

The overall incidence of ASD is consistent around the globe, but is four times more prevalent in boys than girls. Autism spectrum disorder knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries, and family income, lifestyle, and educational levels do not affect the chance of the disorder’s occurrence. While ASD is typically diagnosed in children, it is a lifelong disorder that affects individuals of all ages.
 
How is Autism Diagnosed
There are no medical tests that diagnose autism spectrum disorder. An accurate diagnosis is made by a team of multi-disciplinary professionals and is based on observation of an individual's communication, behavior, and developmental levels. However, because ASD shares behavioral characteristics with other disorders, medical tests may be ordered to rule out other possible causes for the symptoms being exhibited. A brief observation in a single setting cannot present  a true picture of an individual's abilities and behaviors. Parental (and other caregivers') input and developmental history are very important components of making an accurate diagnosis.
 
How is Autism Treated
At this time, no cure has been found for autism spectrum disorder. However, with individualized treatment, education, and support, children and adults with ASD can improve and develop skills that will allow them to live and participate intheir community.

Studies shows that individuals with ASD respond well to a highly-structured, specialized education program tailored to their needs, and that early intervention provides the most positive outcomes. Because ASD is a spectrum disorder, no single method is effective in treating every individual. Treatments that may help include but are not limited to: medicine, diet and occupational, speech, and sensory therapies.
 
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