Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, refers to a group of disorders that affect an individual’s brain development, and consequently their social interaction, communication, and behavior. Additionally, some of the disorders classified as ASD impact cognitive ability, motor coordination, attention, sleep, and bowel movements. Many children with autism or autism spectrum disorder display remarkable ability in a hyperfocused area, such as math or music.
Disorders that fall under the ASD umbrella include:
The prevalence of autism has increased tenfold in the last 40 years. Today, as many as 1 in 68 children are “on the spectrum,” or diagnosed with some level of autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, autism affects 4 times more boys than girls.
Research shows that autism is caused by a combination of environmental factors and genetic risk. This means that children who are at risk of autism genetically may be at higher risk when also exposed to certain environmental factors, including:
Research is still ongoing and other factors are being studied further.
Signs and symptoms of autism are present by 12 months about half the time, and noticeable by 24 months as much as 90% of the time. Most common signs include:
Some children display very subtle signs while other children’s signs may be much more noticeable or inhibiting. Parents who suspect ASD for any reason should schedule an appointment with their pediatrician.
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