GLEN ROSE - The CDC states that 1-in-68 American children are on the autism spectrum and in the last 40 years there has been a ten-fold increase in the number of children diagnosed with some form of autism.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Those who are affected by autism have a wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of functional disabilities, which is why the term “on the spectrum” is used. Some children and adults with ASD are able to perform all daily living activities on their own, while others require support.

ASD affects all racial and ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes. However, boys are more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls are. In the U.S. alone, 1-in-42 boys are diagnosed, while 1-in-189 girls are diagnosed each year.

Research has identified a number of genes that are associated with the cause of autism, but in most cases the cause of ASD can’t be identified. Some studies have suggested that the development of ASD could be a result of disruptions in very early brain development. In recent years there have been questions if there is a link between childhood vaccinations and ASD. The National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke (NINDS) said that multiple studies conducted have shown that vaccines do not increase the risk of autism in the population.

According to the NINDS, common signs of ASD in infants include becoming overly focused on certain objects; rarely make eye contact and failing to engage in typical babbling. Some children may develop normally until their second or third year of life, and then exhibit signs including becoming withdrawn and indifferent to social engagement.

To determine if a child has ASD, a comprehensive evaluation consisting of thorough neurological assessments and in-depth cognitive and language testing will be conducted. The evaluation is usually done by a multidisciplinary team, which includes a psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist, and other professionals who diagnose and treat children with ASD.

Since ASD has become a common diagnosis, April is National Autism Awareness month, while April 2 is World Autism Day. Overall the month provides an opportunity to promote autism awareness, autism acceptance and to draw attention to the tens of thousands facing an autism diagnosis each year.

To celebrate the month the autism awareness puzzle ribbon has become one of the most recognized symbols of autism awareness. The puzzle ribbon was adopted in 1999 and the puzzle pattern reflects the complexity of the autism spectrum. The ribbon also represents hope that through increased awareness of ASD people with disorder can lead full lives and interact with the world on the own terms.