“A developmental disability that hinders the normal functioning of the brain, affecting, in varying degrees, communication skills and social interaction. Repetitive behaviours, and different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things are often distinctive signs”. This standard definition of autism fails to describe the complexity of a condition that ranges in its manifestations from severe intellectual impairment to superior cognitive skills, like in the Asperger syndrome. To comprise such diversity, autism disorders are now covered under the umbrella term “autism spectrum disorder” (ASD). In most cases, ASD manifests during the first 5 years of life, with boys significantly more likely to be diagnosed than girls. ASD usually goes together with several other problems that frequently include anxiety, sleep disorders, or epilepsy. No cure exists; treatment, such as speech therapy, just attempts to alleviate specific deficits of autistic patients.
Nothing is simple in autism. Even the real number of people affected is uncertain.
Nothing is simple in autism. Even the real number of people affected is uncertain. The US CDC estimates that about 1 in 68 (or 1.5%) of children in the USA are living with ASD (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html). The WHO has a more conservative estimate, last revised in January this year, of 1 in 160 children, based on a larger set of epidemiological surveys (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/autism-spectrum-disorders/en/). Needless to say, most studies were conducted in developed countries, and the prevalence of ASD in many low‐ and middle‐income countries remains largely unknown.
Along the years, many potential causes have been indicated, including genetic and environmental factors, exposure to toxins during pregnancy, wide gaps between parent ages, and so on
Although the general consensus is that prevalence rates are increasing globally, this point is debated too. Some analyses indicate that a large percentage of the increase in ASD owes to improved awareness and …