Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood.
Although Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) varies significantly in character and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group. Some experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have ASD and others believe it is even higher. Males are four times more likely to have ASD than females.
Scientists aren't certain about what causes ASD, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role. Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder. Studies of people with ASD have found irregularities in several regions of the brain. Other studies suggest that people with ASD have abnormal levels of serotonin or other neurotransmitters in the brain. These abnormalities suggest that ASD could result from the disruption of normal brain development early in fetal development caused by defects in genes that control brain growth and that regulate how brain cells communicate with each other, possibly due to the influence of environmental factors on gene function. While these findings are intriguing, they are preliminary and require further study. The theory that parental practices are responsible for ASD has long been disproved.
There is no cure for ASD. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of individual children. Most health care professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
About Autism Speaks
At Autism Speaks, their goal 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. Autism Speaks is also committed to raising the funds necessary to support these goals.
In addition, their college program, Autism Speaks U, is designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events. It is an exciting and collaborative way for students to raise funds and awareness for Autism Speaks, while supporting their local autism communities. Students across the country host a variety of events, and some even start Autism Speaks U Chapters. For more information, visit www.autismspeaks.org/U.
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