The Effects of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, impairing normal development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with ASD typically have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication, social interaction and leisure or play activities. The disorder makes it hard for them to communicate with others and relate to the outside world. In some cases, aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may be present. Persons with ASD may exhibit repeated body movement (hand flapping, rocking), unusual responses to people, intense attachments to objects and resistance to changes in routine. Individuals may also experience sensitivities in the five senses of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.
The Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder typically appears during the first three years of life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 1 in 110 children in the United States have an ASD (1 in 70 males), making autism more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. An estimated one percent of the population may be affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders. ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, yet are on average 4 to 5 times more likely to occur in boys than girls. Family income, lifestyle and educational levels do not affect the likelihood of an ASD occurrence.
The Autism Spectrum Disorder Epidemic
Just ten years ago, ASD was thought to be a rare disorder affecting 1 in 10,000 individuals. Five years ago, researchers estimated that 1 in 500 individuals has ASD. Today, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has called the incidence and prevalence of ASD an epidemic. Based on reports from the U.S. Department of Education, state agencies and the Autism Society of America (ASA), there are estimates that ASD is increasing at the alarming rate of 10 to 17 percent every year - faster than any other disability or disease, including cancer. At this rate, in the next decade ASD could surpass mental retardation as the most common developmental disability facing our nation.
Currently, the Autism Society of America (ASA) estimates that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism ranges from $3.5 million to $5 million, and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism (this figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, in addition to related therapeutic services and caregiver costs.1