Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. “It is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain and impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills” (Bee & Boyd 226). Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. The overall incidence of autism is consistent around the globe, but is four times more prevalent in boys than girls. “Autism knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries, and family income, lifestyle, and educational levels do not affect the chance of autism's occurrence” (Frith 85)
Autism is one of five disorders coming under the umbrella of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), a category of neurological disorders characterized by "severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development," including social interaction and communications skills (Zager 26). “Autism is the most common of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders, affecting an estimated 2 to 6 per 1,000 individuals” (Wetherby 143). This means that as many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism.
While understanding of autism has grown tremendously since Dr. Leo Kanner first described it in 1943, most of the public, including many professionals in the medical, educational, and vocational fields, are still unaware of how autism affects people and how they can effectively work with individuals with autism. Contrary to popular understanding, many children and adults with autism may make eye contact, show affection, smile and laugh, and demonstrate a variety of other emotions, although in varying degrees. Like other children, they respond to their environment in both positive and negative ways.
Every person with autism is an individual, and like all individuals, has a unique...