What is Autism?
Autism is a neuro-developmental disability that impacts an individual’s ability to regulate sensory input, to communicate, to interact socially, and to learn in conventional ways. Autism is a spectrum disorder and so affects each individual differently and at varying degrees. Early intervention is crucial to mitigate the degree of impact: by learning the signs early, a child can begin benefiting from one of the many specialized intervention programs.
- 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) — around 2% of 3-17 year olds in the United States. (CDC 2014 data)
- ASD is almost five times more common in boys, with 1 in 42 boys diagnosed versus 1 in 189 girls.
- Autism knows no racial, ethnic or socio-economic boundaries and can affect any family and any child.
- Autism costs a family approximately $60,000 per year, or about $3-$5 million dollars of service costs throughout the child’s lifetime.
- Autism is the fastest growing diagnosis in the California Special Education system.
- While in general Regional Center caseloads have more than tripled in the past 25 years, autism cases have grown by about 14x. (May 2014 DDS data) Find out more about Bay Area statistics here: http://www.sfautismsociety.org/sf-bay-area-autism-by-numbers.html
- California Department of Developmental Services autism cases (limited to “substantially disabling” autism) have skyrocketed from 3,262 in 1989 to more than 73,000 today. (September 2014 DDS data)
Since Autism is a spectrum disorder, there are a wide variety of signs that they may vary in severity. Common indicators include:
- Over and under sensitivity to senses: sound, sight, taste, touch and smell
- Impaired social skills (i.e. no eye contact, no age appropriate peers and no emotional sharing)
- Stereotypical or rigid repetitive behaviors (i.e. difficulties with change, abnormal preoccupation)
- Communication problems and difficulty understanding language (i.e. echolalia, delayed speech, non-responsiveness)
- Problems understanding metaphors—prone to literal interpretation only
The Autism Society of American offers an Information and Referral National Contact Center which provides information to help negotiate the system of services and connect people to resources and support in their communities.