Autism is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM-5) as “difficulties in social communication and social interaction, and restricted and repetitive behavior, interests or activities.” Since the mid-1980s, it has been identified that the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a heritable disorder. Theories on the cause(s) of autism include impairments within the autonomic nervous system, cerebellar dysfunction, mitochondrial impairment, exposure to toxins and many others. Genetic, dietary, developmental, pharmacologic, environmental, and behavioral elements have all been implicated as causes. However, no unifying theory or treatment of autism, or even a workable definition for the disease, has been widely accepted to-date.
Autism is typically displayed in early childhood, and may be associated with various co-morbidities including epilepsy, Fragile-X syndrome, Retts syndrome, Down’s syndrome, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, abnormal sensory or motor responses, disturbed sleep, reduced cognitive functionality, anxiety and aggression. It is more prevalent than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS, combined. The only drugs approved to treat the symptoms of autism are psychotropic drugs that sedate patients to alleviate their anxiety and irritability.
In 2018, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the rate of autism in the United States to be 1 in 59 children, with boys being 4 times more susceptible than girls. This means that 1 in 37 boys is diagnosed with autism. Incidence of diagnosed autism varies widely by state.
Diagnosis of autism appears to be increasing at a rate of 10-17% per year. No cause has been identified for this increase to-date. For example, prevalence of autism increased by about 30% since the previous assessment was conducted 2 years earlier. This result is also more than double the rate that was reported only 12 years ago. In 2014, the financial lifetime per capita cost of autism was estimated to be $3.2 million, with lost productivity and adult care as the largest component of costs, although recent work has shown that costs may be higher when special education budgets are considered.
-  Current estimated prevalence of childhood autism is 3 million children in Europe, 1.5 million children in the United States, as well as tens of millions of children throughout the rest of the world.
-  http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm.html
-  http://www.nursedegree.net/autism/
-  http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=570087