THE following information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of personal consultation, as appropriate, with a qualified healthcare professional. WHAT IS AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER? Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and non-verbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. There is not one autism type, but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism. Autism’s most obvious signs tend to appear between two and three years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier. Autism Speaks urges parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes. SOME FACTS ABOUT AUTISM The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism’s prevalence as one in 68 children in the United States. This includes one in 42 boys and one in 189 girls.An estimated 50 000 teens with autism become adults — and lose school-based autism services —each year. Around one third of people with autism remain non-verbal.Around one third of people with autism have an intellectual disability. Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism.They include gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias.— Autism Speaks.