Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of related developmental disabilities, caused by a problem with the brain, that affect a child's behavior, social, and communication skills. ASDs include autistic disorder, "pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified" (PDD-NOS) and Asperger Syndrome. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently released data which shows an average of 1 in every 110 children in certain parts of the United States has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Usually noticeable before the age of 3, clues to the diagnosis of autism appear long before that time. Early clues may include developmental delays and unusual behaviors or social interactions. Because there is a broad range of disorders, some children with the diagnosis of ASD have very subtle symptoms whereas others have very severe problems.
The key point: Though there is no known cure for autism, children who receive early diagnosis and interventions tend to improve gradually throughout their childhood and adolescence. To empower parents with information on what is normal child development and what isn’t, the CDC launched a campaign called “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Children who get help before age three have the best chance of overcoming developmental challenges. You can access this information at the CDC webpage.
Be sure to check with your pediatrician if you are concerned about your child’s speech or language development, behavior, social, and/or communication skills. Your pediatrician will provide you with critical information about ASDs and answers to parents' most common questions.
More Answers from Deborah Mulligan, MD