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What is Autism?

Autism is the most prominent condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the Autism Spectrum Disorders, or ASD.   Autism is characterized by:

  • Impaired social interaction,
  • Problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and
  • Unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests. 

Other ASDs include:

  • Asperger syndrome,
  • Rett syndrome,
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS).

 

Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have autism.  Males are four times more likely to have autism than females. Psychiatry defines it as an abnormal absorption with the self, marked by communication disorders and short attention span. Others have defined Autism as a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication, and causes restricted and repetitive behavior, all starting before a child is three years old. This set of signs distinguishes autism from milder Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) such as Asperger syndrome.It can also be seen as a mental illness that typically affects a person‘s ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the environment. Some people with Autism have few problems with speech and intelligence and are able to function relatively well in society. Some see it as a bioneurological disorder, not a mental illness, which affects the functioning of the brain. Some theories suggest that it may be caused by genetics, viral and/or chemical exposure, such as vaccinations, and specifically the methyl mercury found in those vaccines.

One thing is sure about Autism, and that is that it‘s a very controversial illness, and one that has been devastating to American families in particular (85% of married couples with Autistic children end up divorced). Statistics from the Autism Society of America show that Autism is found in 1 in 150 births, with 1 to 1.5 million Americans having it - not to mention those family members affected by it. It is the fastest-growing developmental disorder, garnering a $90 billion annual cost 90% of those costs pertaining to adult services.The cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention. (It is projected that by 2013 the annual cost will be $200-$400 billion.)But, there is hope. With the right diagnosis and treatment - including vitamin and mineral therapy, chelation, and vigorous exercise - an Autistic child stands a much better chance of leading a more normal, happy life.