No two people with autism are alike, but many parents notice signs of the disorder when their child does not meet certain developmental milestones, typically between 18 months and 3 years of age.For instance, the child may have problems with eye contact, responding to his or her name or engaging in imaginative play.If the child screens positive, the family may receive a referral to a specialist for a diagnostic evaluation.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that involves impairments in social interaction and communication, challenges with sensory processing, and repetitive behaviors.
The term "spectrum" reflects the fact that symptoms vary across different individuals, ranging in type and severity.
In comparison, 98 percent of typical people and 91 percent of people with disabilities in general find paying work in that time frame."The autism number is quite a bit lower than that, and that's the concern," Roux said.
"You can see that they struggle a lot early on." About half are not connected either to school or to work within two years of leaving high school.
People with certain genetic disorders, such as fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis complex and Angelman syndrome, also tend to have autism, experts say. However, there are behavioral and educational therapies that may help reduce symptoms.
And early diagnosis is key to connecting children with autism to treatment, Elsabbagh said.
Caregivers may also notice that their child does not appear to enjoy engaging and interacting with others, said Mayada Elsabbagh, an assistant professor in psychiatry at Mc Gill University in Quebec, Canada.
However, mild forms of the disorder may not become apparent until the child is older, and some people are not diagnosed until adulthood."They may not be detectible until the child starts reaching school age and starts having specific types of challenges that highlight some of the social and communication problems that they have," Elsabbagh told Live Science.
ASD is an umbrella diagnosis in the DSM-5, replacing the four pervasive developmental disorders described in the previous edition — autistic disorder, Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.
Individuals display ASD symptoms on a continuum, or spectrum, showing ranges of mild to severe symptomatology.