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Children and adults who have an autism spectrum disorder look the same as other people, and due to the invisible nature of their disability it can be much harder to create awareness and understanding. Autism and Asperger syndrome still remain relatively unknown disabilities among the general population. An Autism Spectrum Disorder is a life-long developmental disability affecting social and communication skills.
Because of the differing degrees of severity and variety of manifestations, the term Autism Spectrum Disorder is often used to describe the whole range. This term includes Asperger syndrome, which is a form of autism at the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum. Onset is almost always from birth or before age three, although people with the condition may go through life without being diagnosed - and without receiving help that could help them live more fulfilled lives. An autism spectrum disorder is a life-long disability, but there are ways of helping, especially if a child is diagnosed early and receives appropriate intervention early in life. Special education programmes and structured support can really make a difference to a child's life, helping to maximise skills and achieve full potential in adulthood. 1 person in 100 has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, this includes people who have Asperger syndrome. The estimated population of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders in New Zealand is approximately 40 000. These figures include people at the higher functioning end of the spectrum who may not need specialist services and support, but who will still benefit from early recognition and sympathetic understanding of their special needs and unusual pattern of skills. Features of the disorder can vary widely from one person to another; there is no single feature that defines either Autism or Asperger syndrome. For example, a child with an autism spectrum disorder may make eye contact, speak with perfect grammar or put an arm around another child who is crying. The degree to which people with an autism spectrum disorder are affected varies, but all those affected have impairments in social interaction, social communication and imagination. People with an autism spectrum disorder also have difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication, for example not fully understanding the meaning of gestures, facial expressions or tones of voice. There are difficulties in the development of play and imagination, for example children do not develop creative "let's pretend" play in the way other children do. Children and adults tend to focus on minor or trivial things around them - an earring rather than the person wearing it, the wheel of a toy rather than the car itself.
In addition to this triad, repetitive behaviour patterns are a notable feature, as is a resistance to changes in routine. People with an Autism Spectrum Disorder may have "sensory issues" or a difference in sensory integration, where they can be either hyposensitive or hypersensitive to outside stimuli. This means that a person can be very sensitive to particular sounds, light, smells and touch etc.
Some people with autism spectrum disorders, who may be severely disabled in most ways, will sometimes display talent for say, music, mathematics or technology. If you suspect an autism spectrum disorder is present, have the person referred (or suggest they ask) for a specialist diagnosis and assessment as early as possible through their GP, Child Development Unit, Child and Family Guidance Centre, paediatrician or clinical psychologist. About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.
Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with ASD with an average prevalence of between 1% and 2%. About 1 in 6 children in the United States had a developmental disability in 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism. Studies have shown that among identical twins, if one child has ASD, then the other will be affected about 36-95% of the time. ASD tends to occur more often in people who have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions. Almost half (about 44%) of children identified with ASD has average to above average intellectual ability. A small percentage of children who are born prematurely or with low birth weight are at greater risk for having ASD. ASD commonly co-occurs with other developmental, psychiatric, neurologic, chromosomal, and genetic diagnoses.

Even though ASD can be diagnosed as early as age 2 years, most children are not diagnosed with ASD until after age 4 years. Studies have shown that parents of children with ASD notice a developmental problem before their child's first birthday. Children and adolescents with ASD had average medical expenditures that exceeded those without ASD by $4,110a€“$6,200 per year. In 2005, the average annual medical costs for Medicaid-enrolled children with ASD were $10,709 per child, which was about six times higher than costs for children without ASD ($1,812). Data from a CDC pilot project, published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, suggest that progress has been made in identifying children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at younger ages. A new analysis looking at autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms among young children enrolled in CDC's Study to Explore Early Development (SEED). Using standardized diagnostic instruments to classify children with autism to help find causes of the disorder. Intervention is likely to be more effective and less costly when it is provided earlier in life rather than later.
Learn about Anita Leskoa€™s unique story about what it means to be an adult living with ASD.
More can be done to ensure that children with ASD are evaluated as soon as possible after developmental concerns are recognized.
Learn about CDC's training to help health practitioners identify autism and provide quality care.
Learn more about CDC's data on the number and characteristics of children with autism spectrum disorder.
Hallmayer J, Cleveland S, Torres A, Phillips J, Cohen B, Torigoe T, Miller J, Fedele A, Collins J, Smith K, Lotspeich L, Croen LA, Ozonoff S, Lajonchere C, Grether JK, Risch N.
Ozonoff S, Young GS, Carter A, Messinger D, Yirmiya N, Zwaigenbaum L, Bryson S, Carver LJ, Constantino JN, Dobkins K, Hutman T, Iverson JM, Landa R, Rogers SJ, Sigman M, Stone WL.
DiGuiseppi C, Hepburn S, Davis JM, Fidler DJ, Hartway S, Lee NR, Miller L, Ruttenber M, Robinson C.
Cohen D, Pichard N, Tordjman S, Baumann C, Burglen L, Excoffier E, Lazar G, Mazet P, Pinquier C, Verloes A, Heron D. Prevalence is the number of people in a population that have a condition relative to all of the people in the population.
Continuing our series on Architecture for Autism Spectrum Disorders, we take a look at Spatial Considerations.
Many architects believe, and rightly so, that they play a role in creating spaces that may help these individuals better understand their place in the environment.
The small, intimate proportions of the River Street School, designed in 1989, have proven to be a positive characteristic of the school. Architect Simon Humphreys, designer of the Thomas Bewick School, argues that rather than confining students to small spatial volume areas, students should be allotted a very large amount of personal space. While large volume versus small volume continues to be a topic of debate, so does variety and flexibility of space.
Spatial considerations are of the utmost importance to designers when challenged with space layouts for a particular population. Yet it is estimated that autism spectrum disorders are approximately four times as common as cerebral palsy and 17 times as common as Down's syndrome - touching the lives of over 40 000 people and their families throughout New Zealand. People with the disability can also have accompanying learning disabilities; but, whatever their general level of intelligence, everyone with the condition shares a difficulty in making sense of the world. People with Asperger syndrome are of average (or higher) intelligence and generally have fewer problems with language, often speaking fluently, though their words can sometimes sound formal and ideas which are abstract, metaphorical or idiomatic may cause confusion and be taken literally.
In many cases Autism Spectrum Disorder may also be associated with various conditions affecting the brain such as; maternal rubella, tuberous sclerosis and encephalitis. An early diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder is essential in order to ensure appropriate support is given.
Occasional behaviour such as this doesn't exclude an autism spectrum disorder; it's the overall pattern that's relevant, not the intermittent flashes of "normality". They may, for example, appear aloof and indifferent to other people or passively accept social contact, even showing some signs of pleasure in this, but rarely making spontaneous approaches.

They have a limited range of imaginative activities, possibly copied and pursued rigidly and repetitively. They also tend to miss the point of pursuits involving words, such as social conversation, literature, especially fiction, and subtle verbal humour. People with autism spectrum disorders often become obsessed with particular objects or behaviours, focussing on them to the exclusion of everything else. Particular sensations may be very absorbing and pleasurable, others may be perceived as unbearably intense, stressful and even painful. In non-identical twins, if one child has ASD, then the other is affected about 0-31% of the time.
This significant economic burden represents a variety of direct and in-direct costs, from medical care to special education to lost parental productivity.
Sibling risk of pervasive developmental disorder estimated by means of an epidemiologic survey in Nagoya, Japan. Compulsive, self-injurious, and autistic behavior in children and adolescents with fragile X syndrome.
The conflicting opinions of architects regarding lighting design continue in regards to space planning. Now, 14 years later, the River Street School plans to keep those intimate proportions when designing the school’s renovation.
When designing the Thomas Bewick School, Humphreys requested the program to allow at least 460sq. Some claim that a variety of flexible spaces could make everyone more comfortable and happy.
We look forward to more research being performed regarding long term results of the small-space versus large-space, versus flexible-space debate. Unlike individuals with 'classic' autism, who often appear withdrawn and uninterested in the world around them, many people with Asperger syndrome try hard to be sociable and do not dislike human contact. When they do use language it is generally used very literally with an idiosyncratic, sometimes pompous, choice of words and phrases and limited speech.
It is believed that individuals with autism tend to be more uncoordinated than their “neuro-typical” counterparts.
Others believe that ample space for each child will reduce anxieties surrounding the perceived invasion of personal space.
Those who believe smaller spatial volumes to be best argue that autistic children feel overwhelmed in large, more complex environments. Classrooms with moveable workstations and wall partitions could provide the staff with the flexibility to prepare for any learning situation. However, they still find it hard to understand non-verbal signals, including facial expressions. However, many feel that it is important for autistic individuals to encounter more predictable space layouts.
Therefore, this is an important consideration for architects when designing learning spaces for autistic individuals. Allocating more space per student might encourage students to feel less guarded and less threatened than they would in smaller spaces. Students who may be averse to change would likely feel anxious when entering such an environment, never knowing how the room will look on any given day.
Many believe that autistic students feel as though their personal space is being invaded by other students in close proximity. Teachers have also reported that widely flexible spaces do not serve any one purpose particularly well, and may even promote a lack of order.

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