In earlier years, not much was known about neurological and neurobehavioral disorders, especially those such as autism. Autism, which is often referred to as autism spectrum disorder or ASD, is a neurobehavioral disorder in which patients display a range of behavioral symptoms. Autism is detected usually in children when they are three to four years of age.


Symptoms of Autism

Autism is a complex disorder whereby a range of neurobehavioral symptoms are observed including impairments in social interactions. Symptoms of autism also include rigid behavior that is repetitive, and impairments in communication skills and developmental language.


Autism signs can differ in severity too along with differing symptoms. Thus, someone can just suffer from a handicap or impairment that affects certain aspects of their day-to-day functioning while in others it can be severe enough to be seen as a disability that requires constant care or even institutional care.


In the past few years, a rise in the number of cases of those suffering from autism or ASD has been seen. This rise is a cause for concern and has sent many researchers and doctors into overdrive trying to find out the reason behind it.


Why are more children being diagnosed with autism?

Children who suffer from autism experience trouble understanding the feelings of others or how others think. They face difficulty with communicating about their own feelings. It becomes very difficult for them to express themselves via words or gestures, or even through facial expressions or via touch.


Given the difficulty experienced by children suffering from autism, the rise in the number of children suffering from it is a major cause for concern. Earlier the percentage of children suffering, as per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was 1.5, and this has shot up to 1.7 percent. This rise was mostly noticed in the minority population. The rise in number of cases is such that the Black and Hispanic population cases are almost catching up to those of the Whites.


The reason for it is still being researched, but one of the observations made is that previously not much was known about the disorder and many parents, especially those who were Black or Hispanic, were not aware of the symptoms of autism.


With increases in awareness regarding this disorder and with more thorough diagnosis, more cases are being identified. Researchers feel that it is due to a greater outreach by doctors into minority communities and more efforts being taken to screen children within these communities such that they can get the treatment and therapy that they need earlier.


Many conclude that there is no increase per se in the percentage of children suffering from autism; rather there is greater diagnosis and detection of the disorder. Thus, those who were previously undetected due to lack of awareness and screening facilities in their vicinity have now been diagnosed. So, the previously undetected but prevalent cases have supposedly caused the rise in the number of cases of autism in the last few years.


Doctors view this rise in the number of patients positively, stating that the greater the number of disorders diagnosed, the more patients will receive appropriate therapy and that the gap between the actual number of sufferers and the number of known cases closes, thus ending the disparity.