Autism is just one of the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), lifelong developmental disabilities characterised by marked difficulties in social interaction, impaired communication, restricted and repetitive interests and behaviours and sensory sensitivities.
The word ‘spectrum’ is used because the range and severity of the difficulties people with an ASD experience can vary widely. ASDs include Autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder and pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), which is also known as atypical autism. Sometimes the word “autism” is used to refer to all ASDs.
Research shows that about 1 in 100 children, almost 230 000 Australians, have an ASD and that it is more prevalent in boys than girls. The effects of an ASD can often be minimised by early diagnosis and with the right interventions, many children and adults with an ASD show marked improvements.