Autism Is Now Believed To Affect 1 In Every 166 People

What is Autism
Autism is a developmental disability that affects, often severely, a person's ability to communicate and socially interact with others. It is four times more prevalent in males than females.
Currently, autism is believed to affect 1 in every 166 people. The rate of people being diagnosed with autism has increased substantially over the past two decades.Although this may be in part due to improved diagnostic techniques and to changes in the criteria for autism
spectrum disorders, the majority of experts agree these changes are not enough to explain the epidemic rates at which autism is being diagnosed.
Autism Spectrum Disorders is an umbrella term that includes classic autism (also known as Kanner's autism or Kanner's syndrome), Asperger's syndrome, and pervasive developmental
disorder (PDD).
Autism is considered a spectrum disorder because the number and intensity of the symptoms people with autism display may vary widely. However, all people with autism demonstrate impairments in the following three areas: communication, social relationships and restricted
patterns of behavior.
The spectrum ranges from those who are severely affected, less able, and dependent on others to those who are of above-average intelligence and independent, yet lacking in social skills.

What Causes Autism?
Unfortunately, no one knows the answer. This is one of the primary missions of Cure Autism Now to fund the crucial and necessary research to discover the cause of autism, in order to design effective treatments and, eventually, find a cure.
Here is what is known so far:
There is a genetic predisposition for autism spectrum disorders.Some brain circuits are different in a person with autism.Serotonin, a neurotransmitter important for normal brain functioning and behavior, has been found to be elevated in a subgroup of people with autism.
Some children with autism and related disorders have biochemical and immunological problems.Many experts in the field of autism - for example Dr. Edward Ritvo of the University of California Los Angeles - theorize that there exists a genetic predisposition to autism spectrum disorders.
This predisposition, perhaps encoded within a certain gene, interacts with an as-yet-unknown environmental factor or factors and causes alterations to the immune system, the sensory nervous system, the brain and often the gastrointestinal tract as well. These changes then cause the affected person to exhibit the symptoms of autism.

Autism Does Not Discriminate
Last year I went on a 5K walk at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles benefiting Cure Autism Now. I saw thousands of children, their families and friends that are affected in one way or another by autism.
There were people from all walks of life, professional people like athletes, lawyers, doctors and people you see everyday in your own community. People with children that have autism, all getting together to raise money to help find a cure.Before the walk, I received a letter from a mother whose 4 year old son Danny has autism. She was asking for donations and letting people know about the Cure Autism Now second annual Walk-A-Thon.After reading her letter, I had a better understanding of not only what autism was, but what parents and the children with autism go through on a daily basis. Below is part of that letter. I think after reading it, you will be more understanding as I was.

Start of letter
It's Walk-a-Thon time! A year has passed so quickly. I want to share with you the progress that Danny has made.He is amazing. A year ago he couldn't even tell me he loved me. Now, when I say "I love you Danny" he yells back "I love you more!!!" I waited so long to hear those words. But what is so difficult is the fact that he doesn't know what the words mean. He says them from memory. It's like a recording. Every time I say I love you... he automatically responds with the same answer, which is very common with most autistic children.I ask him what he did in school each day and he can tell me bits and pieces, but he also repeats the same thing everyday or tells me what they did a month ago.
Autistic children have amazing memories. He can take a brand new puzzle, dump all the pieces off the board, pick up any piece without hesitation and put it in it's proper place without even thinking. His mind is incredible.I wake up in the mornings wondering what kind of day Danny
is going to have, and I pray that it's a good one. He is extremely sensitive to his surroundings. If things don't go in the same pattern that he is used to, he flips out...screaming and kicking.
I still find myself in denial sometimes. When we are out in public, I try to do everything in my power to make sure
Danny gets his way, as to not cause a scene.I remember one Friday, I wanted to take a special day and make it "all about Danny," I was going to take him to an indoor playground. It was pouring rain that Friday, but we trampled through the parking lot and into the playground and took off our shoes.Danny wanted to play the video game and another little boy also wanted to play. Danny doesn't do well when other people are in his space, so he started screaming at the top of his lungs, threw himself on the floor kicking me and anything else that got in his way.
I tried to pick him up but he was kicking so hard I could barely lift him. Every mother and child in the place was staring at me. I tried to calm him, but his screams got louder, as they always do when you try to reason with him.
As I carried Danny to the bathroom to get him away from everyone else, I heard one of the moms say to her friend..."I wish she would shut that kid up!!!" I couldn't help but break into tears.We didn't even last five minutes in public. I grabbed our shoes in one hand, Danny in the other and ran to the car in my socks in the pouring rain. I just sat in my car and cried.
I wish that woman could spend just ONE day in the life of Danny. I sometimes want to wear a sign around my neck that say "My child is autistic, please excuse the excessive noise."
Despite Danny's outbursts...he has made incredible progress. He is talking so much. Almost too much. (just kidding) He can write his name all on his own and is starting to sing songs(which he would never do before) He is a very expressive little boy...

End of letter.
After reading that letter, now when I see a child screaming and kicking in a store or someplace, and we all have, I think that the child may be autistic. It made me realize that it's not the child's or the parents fault and I should be more understanding.
The number of autistic cases is rising faster than we can count, but progress is being made. At Cure Autism Now, they are currently funding more than 15 research projects examining the causes of autism. You can go to Danny's page at Cure Autism Now and you will see a picture of Danny, who is 5 years old now and his father at last years Walk-A-Thon. You can donate what you can, learn more about autism and find out where there might be a Walk-A-Thon in
your area.