Autism, part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. The disorder is characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, and also by repetitive behaviors. Symptoms range from mild to severe. One milder form of the disorder is known as Asperger's Syndrome. Other developmental disorders that fall under the Autism Spectrum Disorders are Rett Syndrome, PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified), and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child's failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects as many as 1 in every 110 children in the United States. Therefore, it is estimated that 1.5 million Americans may be affected with autism. Also, government statistics suggest the rate of autism is rising 10-17 percent annually.
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