Autism Awareness Month & World Autism Day is April 2, 2011
Autism affects 1 in 110 children - 1 in 70 boys. Today, it is estimated that one out of every 110 children is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined. An estimated 1.5 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide are affected by autism. Government statistics suggest the prevalence rate of autism is increasing by 10-17 percent annually. There is no established explanation for this increase, although improved diagnosis and environmental influences are two reasons often considered. Studies suggest boys are more likely than girls to develop autism and receive an autism diagnosis three to four times more frequently. Current estimates are that in the United States alone, one out of every 70 boys is diagnosed with autism.
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). The other pervasive developmental disorders are PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified), Asperger's Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Many parents and professionals refer to this group as Autism Spectrum Disorders.
What causes autism? The simple answer is we don't know. The vast majority of cases of autism are idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown.
The more complex answer is that just as there are different levels of severity and combinations of symptoms in autism, there are probably multiple causes. The best scientific evidence available to us today points toward a potential for various combinations of factors causing autism – multiple genetic components that may cause autism on their own or possibly when combined with exposure to as yet undetermined environmental factors. Timing of exposure during the child's development (before, during or after birth) may also play a role in the development or final presentation of the disorder.
A small number of cases can be linked to genetic disorders such as Fragile X, Tuberous Sclerosis and Angelman's Syndrome, as well as exposure to environmental agents such as infectious ones (maternal rubella or cytomegalovirus) or chemical ones (thalidomide or valproate) during pregnancy.
There is a growing interest among researchers about the role of the functions and regulation of the immune system in autism, both within the body and the brain. Piecemeal evidence over the past 30 years suggests that autism may involve inflammation in the central nervous system. There is also emerging evidence from animal studies that illustrates how the immune system can influence behaviors related to autism. Community Health Charities member charity Autism Speaks is working to extend awareness and investigation of potential immunological issues to researchers outside the field of autism as well as those within the autism research community.
The goal of Autism Speaks is to change the future for all who struggle with autism spectrum disorders. They are dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism; to raising public awareness about autism and its effects on individuals, families and society; and to bringing hope to all who deal with the hardships of this disorder. They are committed to raising the funds necessary to support these goals.
Autism Speaks aims to bring the autism community together as one strong voice to urge the government and private sector to listen to their concerns and take action to address this urgent global health crisis. It is their firm belief that, working together, they will find the missing pieces of the puzzle.
Autism Speaks. It's time to listen.
For more information about autism, please visit www.autismspeaks.org
Source: Autism Speaks