Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Autistic disorder, sometimes called autism or classical ASD, is the most severe form of ASD, while other conditions along the spectrum include a milder form known as Asperger syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS).
Although ASD varies significantly in character and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group. Experts estimate that 1 out of 88 children age 8 will have an ASD (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, March 30, 2012). Males are four times more likely to have an ASD than females.
How is autism treated?
There is no cure for ASDs. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of individual children. Most health care professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
Educational/behavioral interventions: Therapists use highly structured and intensive skill-oriented training sessions to help children develop social and language skills, such as Applied Behavioral Analysis. Family counseling for the parents and siblings of children with an ASD often helps families cope with the particular challenges of living with a child with an ASD.
Medications: Doctors may prescribe medications for treatment of specific autism-related symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Antipsychotic medications are used to treat severe behavioral problems. Seizures can be treated with one or more anticonvulsant drugs. Medication used to treat people with attention deficit disorder can be used effectively to help decrease impulsivity and hyperactivity.
Other therapies: There are a number of controversial therapies or interventions available, but few, if any, are supported by scientific studies. Parents should use caution before adopting any unproven treatments. Although dietary interventions have been helpful in some children, parents should be careful that their child’s nutritional status is carefully followed.
Facts and Statistics
- 1 percent of the population of children in the U.S. ages 3-17 have an autism spectrum disorder.
- Prevalence is estimated at 1 in 88 births.
- 1 to 1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder.
- Fastest-growing developmental disability; 1,148% growth rate.
- 10 - 17 % annual growth.
- $60 billion annual cost.
- 60% of costs are in adult services.
- Cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention.
- In 10 years, the annual cost will be $200-400 billion.
- 1 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom have an autism spectrum disorder.
- The cost of autism over the lifespan is 3.2 million dollars per person.
- Only 56% of students with autism finish high school.
- The average per-pupil expenditure for educating a child with autism was estimated by SEEP to be over $18,000 in the 1999-2000 school year. This estimate was nearly three times the expenditure for a typical regular education student who did not receive special education services.
- The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was at 14%, compared with 9% for people without a disability. Additionally, during the same period, only 21% of all adults with disabilities participated in the labor force as compared with 69% of the non-disabled population.