Fast Facts: Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorders affect more children than diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and Down syndrome – combined.[1]

Autism Spectrum Disorders impact neurodevelopment. People “on the spectrum” may experience social challenges such as communication difficulties, repetitive movements or activities. As the name suggests, the range of impairment varies. Autism, or classical autism, is the most severe, while people with Asperger’s Syndrome are high functioning. Other conditions fall in the middle. While no cause or cure is known, symptoms can be greatly improved with early intervention and treatment.

Some Statistics

  • Autism spectrum disorders occur in about 1 of every 88 children (1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls.) That is five times more frequently in boys than girls![2]
    • Diagnosed cases of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have increased 78% compared to a decade ago.[3]
    • Studies have shown that parents of children with ASD often observe differences in social, communication and fine motor skills as early as 6 months of age; noticed developmental issues before their child’s first birthday; and express concerns about vision and hearing during the first year.[4]
    • The lifetime total cost of care for a person with an ASD is 3.2 million dollars.[5]
    • A British study found that early diagnosis and intervention reduces costs by two-thirds.[7]

Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders

There are many burdens (financial, employment, time) related to having children with autism. Accessing care and unmet healthcare needs is also significantly more problematic.[8]

Children with ASD have a high level of social vulnerability, placing them at risk in social situations.[9] For example, people with Asperger’s Syndrome may be less able to laugh at themselves, but are more likely to have a high fear of being laughed at.[10]

Families of people with autism say they encounter negative reactions from the public. These perceptions appear to stem from a lack of understanding about autism and its related behaviors; it is the behaviors that lead to the stigmatization rather than the label.[11]


[1]The Child and Adolescent Health Management Initiative, accessed 3/3/14, http://childhealthdata.org/search?k=prevalence

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), accessed 3/3/14 http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6103a1.htm?s_cid=ss6103a1_w

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6103a1.htm?s_cid=ss6103a1_w

[4] Kozlowski, A. M., Matson, J. L., Horovitz, M., Worley, J. A., & Neal, D. (2011). Parents’ first concerns of their child’s development in toddlers with autism spectrum disorders. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 14(2), 72-78.

[5] Ganz, M.L. 2007. The Lifetime Distribution of the Incremental Societal Costs of Autism, Arch Pediatric Adolesc Med.;161:343-349.

[6] Autism Speaks, accessed 3/3/14, http://www.autismspeaks.org/about-us/press-releases/annual-cost-of-autism-triples

[7] Jarbrink K, Knapp M, 2001. The economic impact on autism in Britain. Autism. 5 (1): 7-22.

[8] Kogan, M.D. et al. 2008. A national profile of the health care experiences and family impact of autism spectrum disorder among children in the United States, 2005-2006. Pediatrics.122(6):e1149-58.

[9] Sofronoff, K, Dark, E, and Stone. 2011. Social Vulnerability and Bullying in Children with Asperger Syndrome. Autism 15(3): 355-372.

[10] Sampson, A.C., Huber, O, and Ruch, W. 2001. Teasing, Ridiculing and the Relation to the Fear of Being Laughed at in Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders; 41 (4): 475-483

[11] Butler, R, Gillis, J. 2011. The Impact of Labels and Behaviors on the Stigmatization of Adults with Asperger’s Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 41:741-749.