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ASD refers to a group of complex neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. These symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning of individuals with ASD. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM-5”) includes Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified (“PDD-NOS”) as part of ASD rather than as separate disorders.

The latest analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has ASD.

A diagnosis of ASD includes an assessment of intellectual disability and language impairment. ASD occurs in every racial and ethnic group, and across all socioeconomic levels, although boys are significantly more likely to develop ASD than girls.

The core features of ASD include:

  • impairments in social communication;

  • impairments in language and related cognitive skills; and

  • behavioral and emotional challenges.

These core features are significantly influenced by developmental level of language acquisition (e.g. pre-symbolic, emerging language, and conversational language) and the severity level of the disorder. In addition to these core features, sensory and feeding challenges may also be present. There are no therapies for the core symptoms of ASD approved by the FDA, and current treatments include dietary, pharmacologic and behavioral modifications aimed at managing the symptoms of the disorder.

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