Developmental disabilities are a diverse group of severe chronic conditions that are due to mental and/or physical impairments. People with developmental disabilities have problems with major life activities such as language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living. Developmental disabilities begin anytime during development up to 22 years of age and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.
An ASD is something an individual is born with; it is not acquired and individuals do not “outgrow” an ASD. It is found in every country, every ethnic group, and every socio-economic group. ASD’s are diagnosed four times as often in males as in females, except for Rett’s Disorder, which affects females almost exclusively. Research supports that ASD’s are most likely complex genetic disorders found on multiple genes and affected by environmental triggers.
Individuals living with an ASD often display impairments in communication and social functioning and may also display challenging behaviors. These may include:
- Impairments in use of expressive language and understanding of both verbal and non-verbal communication
- Inability to understand others’ feelings or perspectives
- Impairments in social development and reciprocal social interactions,
- Excessive preoccupation with certain topics or activities
- Stereotyped and repetitive behaviors
- Preference for sameness
- Sensory regulatory problems
- Attachment to unusual objects
- Tantrums, aggression, and self injury
One in 110 individuals has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). With a prevalence approaching 1% the Center for Disease Control states that ASD’s are an important public health concern. Autism Spectrum Disorders include Autistic Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Autism is a very complex, life-long neurological condition. It is not a mental illness and it is not an intellectual disability; however, those diagnoses can co-exist.
Early intervention is critical. Early and intensive behavioral intervention has repeatedly been proven to be the most effective treatment. Individuals living with an ASD can continue to learn throughout their lifetime with proper supports and individualized treatments. Each person with an ASD has a very individual presentation - there is no “one size fits all.”