According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 110 children in the United States is affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and the rates are rapidly increasing. ASD can affect human development in a variety of ways and may interfere with an individual’s social interactions. While no single cause of autism has been discovered, trends have shown possible relationships between ASD and certain other conditions such as Down Syndrome.
It can often be difficult for parents to realize that their child is autistic. Some children may, at first, appear to be shy or have difficulty focusing before receiving the diagnosis. Although relatively little is known about ASD, symptoms of ASD usually become most obvious during early childhood (2 to 6 years old). Diagnosing ASD can be complex, however, because many of its symptoms often coexist with other health problems such as seizures, gastrointestinal issues, sleep issues and attention deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD), and therefore may be associated with these other conditions.
An earlier diagnosis gives parents and medical professionals more time to build an education and therapy plan that will best cater to the child’s needs for the future. However, the social and environmental factors influencing autistic children can greatly impact their treatment plans and management as they grow into adulthood.