Autism Spectrum Disorders


What Everyone Needs to Know



Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are …


… a group of pervasive developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.  People with ASDs handle information in their brains differently than other people. The term “autism spectrum” means that these disorders affect each person to different degrees. The symptoms can range from very mild to severe, and the ability of individuals with ASDs to think and learn can range from gifted to severely challenged. The severity and expression of the symptoms can differ among individuals.


… an urgent public health concern. Incidence of ASDs among the US population has increased tremendously in the last decade. Currently, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that an average of one in every 88 children in the United States has an ASD – that’s higher than the rate of childhood cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. More people than ever before are being diagnosed with an ASD. While greater awareness and a broader definition of ASDs may contribute to this increase in diagnoses, studies indicate a true increase in the number of people with an ASD cannot be ruled out.


ASDs develop before the age of three, but are sometimes not apparent until later. They remain throughout a person’s life. To date there is no known cure for ASDs, although early intervention treatment has been shown to greatly improve a child’s development. Some ASDs can be diagnosed as early as 18 months of age, however, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. Delaying diagnosis means a child may miss the opportunity to get help early.


Many people with an ASD require supports and services to develop the skills they need to live successful, happy lives. Recent studies have estimated that the lifetime cost to care for one individual with an ASD is approximately $3.2 million. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control reports that average medical expenditures for individuals with ASDs have been found to be higher than that of individuals without an ASD. The challenges involved in caring for a family member diagnosed with an ASD can be stressful for parents, siblings and caregivers and have widespread repercussions.