Autism is a developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects functioning of the brain, autism and its associated behaviors occur in approximately 1 of every 68 people. Autism interferes with the normal development of the brain in the areas of reasoning, social interaction and communication skills.
Children and adults with autism typically have deficiencies in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions and leisure or play activities. The disorder makes it hard for them to communicate with others and relate to the outside world. They may exhibit repeated body movements (hand flapping, rocking, etc.), have unusual responses to people or attachments to objects and resist changes in routines.
In some cases, aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior may occur. Autism is four to five times more prevalent in boys than girls and knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle and level of education do not affect the chance of occurrence.
It is conservatively estimated that more than 4 million people in the United States (almost 70,000 people in South Carolina) have some form of autism. Its prevalence rate now places it as the third most common developmental disability – more common than Down syndrome.