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Autism numbers have plateaued in recent years

Sentinel Echo - 4/6/2018

April is Autism Awareness Month.

After more than a decade of steady increases in the number of children being diagnosed with autism in the United States, the rate has plateaued in recent years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there was no significant increase in the prevalence of children between ages 3 and 17 who had ever been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with 2.41 percent of children diagnosed with ASD in 2015 and 2.76 percent in 2016.

ASD is a range of developmental disorders that can impact how a person functions. Those diagnosed with autism may experience significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

There is often no physical indication that someone has ASD but an individual with autism may communicate, interact, behave and learn in different ways from most people.

The term "spectrum" refers to the wide range of symptoms a person with ASD may experience.

Symptoms can range from lack of communication skills, difficulty interacting with others, unusual interests or behaviors and may be hyperactive. The severity of this wide array of symptoms can also range from being very mild behaviors to behaviors that can cause significant changes to a person's life.

While one person with autism may become obsessive on a topic and study it so much that they become an expert at it, some may face extreme challenges that cause them to have more difficulties communicating with others.

The spectrum of symptoms varies from person to person, leaving any combination of symptoms possible in a person with ASD.

There is no known cause for autism but there are many factors that may make a child more likely to be diagnosed with ASD such as environmental, biological and genetic factors. According to the CDC, autism is more common in boys than it is in girls.

Because there is no known cause for ASD, it can be difficult to make a diagnosis. Doctors will often look at a child's behavior, communication and development to make the diagnosis.

The most obvious signs of autism will typically appear between 2 and 3 years old but some children may be diagnosed as early as 18 months old.

Currently, there is no cure for ASD but according to the CDC, early intervention treatment services can help to improve a child's development.

The next part of this series will explore the treatments available to those diagnosed with autism.


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