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General Information

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although it can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder,” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.

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Asperger's Syndrome

Asperger’s syndrome is characterized by individuals who suffer no speech or cognitive delay as children, but who display a range of autistic-like behaviors and ways of taking in the world.

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Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, the rarest of autism spectrum disorders, is considered to be a later-developing form of autism. After an average of 3 to 4 years of normal development, a child loses social engagement, words and sentences, and play skills.

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Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)

PDD-NOS is characterized by individuals who display autistic-like behaviors and ways of taking in the world that impact functioning, but does not fully meet the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger’s syndrome.

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Causes of Autism

There’s no one cause of autism. Research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic and environmental influences. However, it’s important to keep in mind that increased risk is not the same as cause.

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Signs of Autism

The timing and severity of autism’s early signs vary widely. Some infants show hints in their first months. In others, symptoms become obvious as late as age 2 or 3.

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Facts and Statistics

About one percent of the world’s population has autism spectrum disorder, with the prevalence in the United States estimated at 1 in 59 births.

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Sign up for free seminars on autism through Cigna.

Cigna hosts monthly seminars to help you learn more about autism, offering expert information on common issues, coping techniques, and caregiver support. These seminars are free, confidential, and can make a difference.

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DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria

The DSM-5 is now the standard reference that health care providers use to diagnose mental and behavioral conditions, including autism.

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Medical Diagnosis

There are no medical tests for diagnosing autism. An accurate diagnosis must be based on observation of the individual’s communication, social interaction, and his or her activities and interests.

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School Evaluation

The first step to obtaining special education services is for your child to be evaluated for autism. The evaluation can be done when your child is first suspected of having a disability or when his or her level of functioning changes in one or more areas.

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Related Conditions

Many individuals with autism also suffer from a variety of different related conditions such as allergies, low muscle tone, and sleep problems.

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Treatment Options

The most effective treatments available for treating autism are applied behavioral analysis, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and pharmacological therapy.

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Nonmedical Interventions

The Texas Autism Resource Guide for Effective Teaching (TARGET) provides information on interventions with people with ASD, such as activity based intervention and self-management.

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Questions to Ask When Evaluating Options

After identifying available treatments, interventions, therapies, and other services, you will need to choose which ones are best for you or your child.

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Adults with Autism

A Guide for Transition to Adulthood

Beginning at age 16 Federal law requires the development of a transition plan for individuals with ASD. This process is important as a student moves from school to adulthood.

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A College Guide for Students on the Spectrum

The purpose of this guide is to help you, as an incoming or current college student with autism, gain a better understanding of academic, social, and financial supports, services, and resources needed to successfully navigate college.

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Deciding When to Disclose Your ASD

Like individuals with diabetes, depression, or other invisible disabilities, adults with high-functioning ASD may face the tough decision of whether to tell people about their disability.

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Disclosing a Disability in the Workplace

Some people say that you should disclose your autism in the workplace so as to get reasonable accommodations. But others say that disclosing could lead to subtle or obvious forms of prejudice.

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Resources for Parents and Families

CDC Milestone Tracker App

CDC Milestone Tracker App

Track your child’s milestones from age 2 months to 5 years with the CDC’s easy-to-use illustrated checklists. You can also get tips encouraging your child’s development and find out what to do if you have concerns.

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