Autism Spectrum Disorder

Definitions

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition lists autism under autism spectrum disorder. Diagnosis is based on deficits in two domains: social communication and restrictive interests and repetitive behaviors. Diagnosis also takes into account the severity of symptoms displayed. The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act definition is relatively broad (see Autism, IDEA).

Prevalence

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revised its autism spectrum disorder prevalence estimate of one child per 110 children to one child per 88 children. Males are three to four times more frequently identified than females. Siblings of children with autism spectrum disorders are much more likely to be diagnosed than their peers without such siblings. The number of military-connected children with autism spectrum disorders is not publicly documented. The 2011 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act federal child count reported 455,339 children with autism spectrum disorders ages 2 through 3: more than double the number reported in 2005. Autism spectrum disorder is now the fourth most populous disability category.

Educational services

The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders, the National Autism Center and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services have developed lists of evidence-based practices for autism spectrum disorders (see Evidence-Based Practices Comparison Chart). Applied behavior analysis is the most extensively researched intervention. Applied behavior analysis' effectiveness for deficits such as speech/language delays and generalization of skills has been questioned. Proponents counter that applied behavior analysis is effective when properly planned and implemented. Teacher training requirements for autism spectrum disorders continue to be reviewed. Delaware, for example, now requires teachers assisting children with autism spectrum disorders to have an autism spectrum disorder endorsement.

Outcomes

Limited data on post-school outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorders is available, but it appears that relatively few individuals with autism spectrum disorders live independently or sustain full-time employment. Similarly, few attend and even fewer complete post-secondary education programs. As with all disabilities, effective secondary transition planning is critical.