What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others.

ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes.

Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities.

The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is applied based on analysis of all behaviors and their severity.


How common is autism?

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 59 births in the United States – twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 – and almost 1 in 54 boys.


What causes ASD?

We do not know all of the causes of ASD. However, we have learned that there are likely many causes for multiple types of ASD. There may be many different factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental and genetic factors.

Most scientists agree that genes are one of the risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop ASD.

Vaccines have no effect on risk. Each family has a unique experience with an autism diagnosis, and for some it corresponds with the timing of their child’s vaccinations. At the same time, scientists have conducted extensive research over the last two decades to determine whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research is clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled a comprehensive list of this research.


Why is autism increasing? Are we just diagnosing more?

More people than ever before are being diagnosed with ASD. It is unclear how much of this increase is due to a broader definition of ASD and better efforts in diagnosis. However, a true increase in the number of people with an ASD cannot be ruled out. The increase in ASD diagnosis is likely due to a combination of these factors.

What is the best treatment for autism?

While there is no known cure for autism, there are treatment and education approaches that can address some of the challenges associated with the condition.

Intervention can help to lessen disruptive behaviors, and education can teach self-help skills for greater independence. But just as there is no one symptom or behavior that identifies people with autism, there is no single treatment that will be effective for everyone on the spectrum. Individuals can use the positive aspects of their condition to their benefit, but treatment must begin as early as possible and focus on the individual’s unique strengths, weaknesses and needs.


Who can I turn to for help?

Check out our RESOURCE PAGE for information and helpful links.

CONTACT US to ask about our family navigation program.  Fields Center's Family Navigation Program is a unique service that offers parents and loved ones guidance and a helping hand as they navigate the support systems for autism.

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