Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. It refers to a range of conditions characterized by anxiety, repetitive patterns of behavior, impairments in social communication including verbal and non-verbal communication, and deficits in developing and maintaining relationships. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life. While scientists currently don’t know the exact causes of ASD, research suggests that genes can act together with influences from the environment to affect development in ways that lead to ASD.

The category includes conditions that were formerly considered separate: Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), and pervasive developmental disorders (unspecified) (PDD). Based on new estimates published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, one in 44 children are diagnosed with ASD,1 implying that ASD affects approximately 1.4 million children and adolescents between the ages of 3 through 17. 

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1 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2018. Surveillance Summaries / December 3, 2021 / 70(11);1–16.

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