Autism is a developmental disability that is generally observed within the first 3 years of a child’s life. Individuals with autism are characterized by serious deficits in the areas of nonverbal and verbal communication, social skill development, and age-appropriate play skills. In addition, individuals with autism often display unusual and dysfunctional patterns of behavior and often demonstrate significantly restricted ranges of behavior and interests. These deficits prevent individuals with autism from interacting with, and learning from, others around them and may place these individuals at an increased risk for challenging behavior problems, such as aggression, self-injury, and significant tantrum behavior.
According to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM), about 1 in 68 children have been identified as being diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This rate of autism has increased significantly since their earlier published statistics in 2008. NJ has the highest prevalence rate in the nation, with approximately 1 in 45 children being diagnosed with an ASD. The rate of an ASD diagnosis is 4-5 times more common in boys (1 in 42) than girls (1 in 189) and spreads across ethnic, racial, and social groups.
Although individuals with an ASD share some common behavioral characteristics, each child with autism is unique and his/her family situation is unique. What is common, is that all of these individuals and their families will need support. Although, historically, individuals with autism were destined to a life of loneliness and complete dependence on others, this is no longer true. Research has documented that intensive behavioral intervention at an early age leads to significant and long-lasting change in the lives of individuals with autism.