Autism is a condition that affects how a person interprets and interacts with the world around them.
Everyone with autism is unique, but they each have some degree of difficulty communicating with and relating to other people.
Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder because the symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. People with autism can also have other conditions such as intellectual disabilities or sensory integration disorders.
Autism is considered a developmental disability because symptoms appear in early childhood and can limit a person's ability to learn, communicate or care for themselves throughout their life.
For links to more detailed information on autism, visit our Resources page.
Who is Affected?
Autism occurs in people across all racial, ethnic and economic groups.
Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children are now diagnosed with autism. Rates vary widely from one community to the next.
The number of children diagnosed with autism grew from 1 in 150 in 2000 to 1 in 68 in 2010, an increase of 120%. Research cites a combination of factors for the increase: 1) improved diagnostics, 2) genetics and 3) environmental factors.
Boys are almost 5 times more likely to have autism than girls. The national rate is 1 in 42 for boys and 1 in 189 for girls.
Autism does not just affect individuals, it has an impact on the entire family and the community in which they live. Based on the population of Bexar County, 1 in 20 people have someone in their household with autism.
Raising a child with autism is estimated to cost a family $17,000 more per year than caring for a child without autism and can be a significant financial burden for many families. The stress associated with caring for a child with autism can also take a toll on the emotional, mental and physical health of the family.
The total lifetime cost of caring for a person with autism is now estimated to be $2.4 million. A total of $236 billion is spent in our country each year on autism services for children and adults including diagnosis, treatment, special education, occupational training and residential programs.
To learn more about the CDC study and how autism rates are determined, download the full report below.
Autism can be diagnosed in children as young as 18 months but symptoms may appear much earlier. A child with autism might: Not smile back at people by 2 months of age Not respond to his or her name by 12 months of
age (for example, appear not to hear). Not point at objects to show interest by 14
months of age for example, point at an airplane flying over). Not play “pretend” games by 18 months of age
(for example, pretend to “feed” a doll). Avoid eye contact and want to be alone. Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about his or her own feelings. Have delayed speech and language skills (for example, use words much later than siblings or peers or
not use words to communicate). Repeat words or phrases
over and over. Give unrelated answers to questions. Get upset by minor changes
in routine (for example, getting a new toothbrush). Have obsessive interests (for example, having a
very strong interest in trains that is difficult to interrupt). Flap his or her hands, rock his or her body, or
spin in circles. Have unusual ways of playing with or using
objects, such as spinning or lining them up repeatedly. Visit the Early Invention section of our Resources page to download information on developmental milestones by age from the CDC's Learn the Signs. Act Early campaign.