WHAT IS AUTISM?
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.
Autism is a spectrum disorder. The symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. Although autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors, children and adults can exhibit any combination of the behaviors in any degree of severity. Two children, both with the same diagnosis, can act very differently from one another and have varying skills.
Every person with autism is an individual, and like all individuals, has a unique personality and combination of characteristics. Some individuals mildly affected may exhibit only slight delays in language and greater challenges with social interactions. A person may have difficulty initiating and/or maintaining a conversation. Communication is often described as talking "at" others (for example, monologue on a favorite subject that continues despite attempts by others to interject comments).
Prevalence of Autism
Autism is the most common of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders, affecting an estimated 2 to 6 per 1,000 individuals (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001). This means that as many as 1.5 million Americans and 50, 000 Canadians today are believed to have some form of autism.
And that number is on the rise. Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and other governmental agencies, autism is growing at a rate of 10-17 percent per year. At these rates, the Autism Society of America (ASA) estimates that the prevalence of autism could reach 4 million Americans in the next decade.
The overall incidence of autism is consistent around the globe, but is four times more prevalent in boys than girls. Autism knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries, and family income.
What Causes Autism?
There is no single known cause for autism, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in autistic versus non-autistic children. Researchers are investigating a number of theories, including the link between heredity, genetics and medical problems. In many families, there appears to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities, further supporting a genetic basis to the disorder.
While no one gene has been identified as causing autism, researchers are searching for irregular segments of genetic code that autistic children may have inherited. It also appears that some children are born with a susceptibility to autism, but researchers have not yet identified a single "trigger" that causes autism to develop.
Whatever the cause, it is clear that children with autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) are born with the disorder or born with the potential to develop it. It is not caused by bad parenting. Autism is not a mental illness.
Children with autism are not unruly kids who choose not to behave. Furthermore, no known psychological factors in the development of the child have been shown to cause autism.
For autism support/resources in Calgary, visit these related sites:
Autism Asperger's Friendship Society
Autism Calgary Association
Behaviour Therapy Learning Centre
Calgary Between Friends Club
Calgary Quest School
Children's Link Society
New Heights Calgary
Janus Academy Society
Providence Child Development Centre
Renfrew Educational Services
Third Academy School
For more information about autism,
visit these related sites:
Autism Society of America
Society for the Treatment of Autism
Information provided by The Autism Society of America