Autism is a neurologically based developmental disorder that affects a child's ability to communicate, socially interact, and engage in developmentally appropriate behaviors. Autism is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) classification of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Also found under this classification are Asperger's disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett's disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder–Not Otherwise Specified (PDD–NOS). The categories of autism, Asperger's disorder, and PDD-NOS are all considered under the umbrella term autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
National studies show that ASD is nearly 10 times more prevalent today than it was 20 years ago. Some of the increase is attributed to widened definitions of the disorder; however, there is no consensus regarding the reasons for the rest of the increase. Findings from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that over 26,000 children in Illinois under age 18 have some form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including nearly 10,000 children under age five. With the CDC's estimates at one in 88 births, the impact on schools, teacher educators, and families is enormous. Special education costs for a child with ASD averages more than $19,000 per year and specially structured programs and residential school costs average between $40,000 and $100,000 per year.
It is well documented that early intervention for the treatment of ASD can yield substantial benefits to children and their families. With intensive early intervention, children with ASD are far more likely to develop lifelong skills that result in having a higher quality of life and requiring less intense special services when they are older. Often, however, many parents pursue treatments and interventions that are not valid and may even do their child more harm than good. Unfortunately, there are many unethical interventions and treatments in the area of ASD. The best intervention or treatment for an individual with ASD is a strong education program.
ASD Categories Defined
Learn the characteristics, diagnosis, and treatment of the categories of ASD and get resources to learn more: