Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders

October 25, 2020

Child at Psychologist

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a range of conditions characterized by some degree of impaired social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted or repetitive behaviors. ASDs begin in childhood and tend to persist into adulthood. The impact of ASDs varies and while some individuals lead a productive and independent life, it can limit the capacity of an individual to conduct daily activities and participate in society, and some individuals even require life-long care and support. 

The prevalence of autism in the US has been rising over the past two decades, however it is unclear how much of this trend is due to an actual increase in incidence and how much reflect changes in diagnostic criteria and growing awareness among the general public and within the medical profession. In 2020, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an ASD. While autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups, minority groups tend to be diagnosed later and less often. The report also found that most children were diagnosed after age 4, though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2. This is unfortunate because early intervention efforts promotes optimal development. There is no reliable estimate for the number of adults living with ASD which creates a challenge in providing services for a population that often requires special care and services lifelong. It is estimated that each year more than 70,000 teens with autism transition out of school-based services but without appropriate transitory care in place.

There is no test that can diagnose autism and diagnosis relies solely on observations of a person’s behavior. There is also no known cure for ASD. The healthcare needs of people with ASD are complex and require a coordinated approach across a number of providers and services, including care and rehabilitation services, health promotion, and collaboration with other sectors such as education, employment and social care. These interventions can help by reducing symptoms, improving cognitive ability and daily living skills, and maximizing the ability of the child to function and participate in the community. Organizations such as True Legacy are taking a holistic view to creating concrete foundations on which individuals with ASD can equip themselves to leap forward into strong futures creating thriving, responsible, safe and productive legacies that last.

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