What is Autism?

Autism, part of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), is a complex neurobiological disorder, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe, which typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. The disorder is characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills, lack of social abilities, and by repetitive behaviors. Parents are usually the first to notice either unusual behaviors in their child or their child's failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child who seems different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills.

Once considered rare disorders, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are more prevalent today than ever before. The Center for Disease Control's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network report that 1 in 68 children have an ASD (2014). According to the 2006 Waco Regional Advisory Committee for the Texas State Plan on Autism, as many as 132,000 Texans today are believed to have some form of autism. Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, autism is growing at a rate of 10-17 percent a year. In addition, 67 children are diagnosed per day and a new case is diagnosed almost every 20 minutes. More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined and autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. according to Autism Society of America (2007).