Written by Michele Wheat
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is a general term used to describe a group of complex brain development disorders. The disorders are characterized in varying degrees based on difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction, and repetitive behavior. Following the publication of a diagnostic manual, all autism disorders were merged into one general diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Prior to the publication of the manual in 2013, autism disorders were recognized as distinct and included autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PPD-NOS), and childhood disintegrative disorder.
Autism spectrum disorder can be associated with intellectual disabilities, physical health issues, and difficulty with attention and motor coordination. The signs or symptoms of autism most often appear between the ages of two and three. The exact cause of autism spectrum disorder is not known. To continue funding necessary research, autism awareness is imperative.
Is Autism Common?
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 68 American children are on the autism spectrum. Overall, autism spectrum disorders effect more than 3 million Americans, as well as millions more around the world. The prevalence of autism has increased ten fold in just forty years with research showing the increase is only slightly explained by better diagnosis and more awareness. Researchers have thus far been unable to explain the other reasons behind the increase in autism spectrum disorder. Research has also shown that autism is four to five times more common in boys than in girls.
The Causes of Autism
Previously, the causes of autism were unknown but research is finally beginning to provide answers. It appears that there is no one cause of autism, and over the past few years, scientists have discovered a number of rare gene mutations associated with autism. While research into the causes of autism continues, scientists believe that most cases appear to be caused by a combination of gene mutations and environmental factors.
Each year, autism organizations around the world work to provide autism awareness to the public. Many organizations hold fundraising and other events to try and raise awareness of autism. Autism awareness helps with funding research, and providing care to those who need it. In 1999, a puzzle piece ribbon in the colors of blue, red, and yellow, was adopted as the universal sign of autism awareness. The image was created by the Autism Society, but is also used by other organizations in a demonstration of unity in working to advance awareness. The puzzle pattern on the autism awareness ribbon reflects the complexity of autism spectrum disorders., with the different shapes and colors representing the diversity of people living with the condition. There are many different products available featuring the puzzle symbol including car magnets, wristbands, clothing, and much more. The more awareness raised, the more that can be done to figure out the causes and possible future treatments of autism spectrum disorder. The hope is that with increased awareness of autism, comes access to appropriate support and services, allowing those with autism to lead full lives.
Learn More About Autism and Autism Awareness