What is Autism?

The annual cost of autism is $236 - $262 Billion, a figure expected to significantly increase over the next decade.

What is Autism? Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a set of complex neurodevelopmental disorders that vary significantly in character and severity, occur in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and affect every age group. Males are almost five times more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder than females.

What Does Autism Look Like? Individuals with autism often demonstrate the following behaviors and symptoms:

  • Behavioral: Common behaviors of individuals with ASDs include repetitive body movements (such as hand flapping, rocking or tip-toe walking), self-inflicted injuries (head banging), wandering and a lack of sensitivity to pain. Individuals with ASDs also may show a restricted range of interests.
  • Physical: Individuals with ASDs often have symptoms associated with medical conditions, such as seizures, sleep problems, allergies, immune dysfunction, metabolic conditions and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders.
  • Social: Common social manifestations include impaired social interaction, such as difficulties with non-verbal cues (gestures and facial expressions) and little or no eye contact. Individuals with ASDs also may demonstrate delayed and disordered language, repetitive or rigid speech patterns and monochromatic tone.
  • Learning: Cognition, visual and auditory processing often pose difficulties to individuals with ASDs.

How Broad is the Spectrum? On the lower functioning end of the autism spectrum, individuals may not speak or make eye-contact and may require constant one-on-one care, and therefore not be able to live independently. On the higher functioning end, individuals are able to communicate and have the ability to acquire the necessary skills to sustain an independent life.

Impact of autism

  • Currently 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys are diagnosed with autism1
  • Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S.2
  • More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than Cancer, Diabetes, Downs Syndrome and AIDS combined3  
  • In 2012, autism research received 0.55% of total National Institutes of Health government funding.4
  • The annual cost of autism is $236 - $262 Billion, a figure expected to significantly increase over the next decade5
  • 49% of families have reported that their child is in danger of wandering from home6
  • Income of families with children with autism spectrum disorders are 28% less than those of families whose children do not have autism7
  • Autism spectrum disorders are estimated to affect more than 3.5 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide8

Typically, autism affects individuals in five key areas:

  • Communication – verbal or non-verbal, echolalia (repetitive speech patterns), monochromatic tone, repetitive or rigid language, poor conversational skills
  • Social skills - difficulties with non-verbal cues such as gestures, facial expressions, display little or no eye contact
  • Behaviors - stimming (performing repetitive body movements such as hand flapping, rocking or tip-toe walking), self-injurious (head banging), wandering, lack of sensitivity to pain
  • Learning - cognition, visual and auditory processing difficulties
  • Medical issues - gastrointestinal distress, allergies, seizures, immune dysfunction

Related Articles and Videos on the Prevelance and Increase of autism spectrum disorders:

CDC: U.S. Kids with Autism up 78% in Past Decade - http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/29/health/autism/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, United States, 2008
Full report: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2012/images/03/29/ss6103.ebook.pdf



  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, March 28, 2014 - link to read full report below http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6302a1.htm?s_cid=ss6302a1_w
  2. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html
  4. http://www.autism-society.org/about-autism/facts-and-statistics.html -- “Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Changes in the California Caseload, An Update June 1987 June 2007.” Cavagnaro, Andre T., California Health and Human Services Agency. State of California 2003 survey of developmental disabilities.
  5. Journal of the American Medical Association, Costs of Autism Spectrum Disorders in the United Kingdom and United States: https://autismsciencefoundation.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/costs-of-autism-jama-june-2014.pdfhttp://childhealthdata.org/search?k=prevalence
  6. http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/facts-about-autism
  7. http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/02/pf/autism/index.htm
  8. http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/facts-and-statistics



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