Autism is a severe developmental disorder that begins at birth or within the first two-and-a-half years of life. Most autistic children look like other kids and are perfectly normal in appearance, but do spend their time engaged in puzzling and disturbing behaviors which are markedly different from those of typical children. Less severe cases on the spectrum may be diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) or with Asperger’s Syndrome; these children usually typically have normal speech and might even be intellectually gifted, but they have one or more many “autistic” social and behavioral problems.

People used to think autism was irreversible. The good news is that there are now a wide range variety of treatments that can be very helpful. A good starting point for choosing one is to look at the parent ratings of interventions, which presents the responses of more than 25,000 parents, showing the effectiveness. See the Treatment Ratings for Autism.

Video Presentation

Challenging behaviors continue to top the list of concerns for families and teachers of persons with ASD. Although we have made impressive gains in helping reduce these problem behaviors, obstacles remain. This talk will cover new insights into these obstacles and how families and others can overcome them and effectively help persons with even the most severe behavioral challenges. The presenter will describe how advances in positive psychology can help caregivers be more effective in their efforts to help those with ASD and how to help themselves lead happier and less stressful lives.

Optimistic Parenting: Hope and Help for Individuals with Challenging Behavior – Presented by V. Mark Durand, Ph.D.

How Common Is It?

For many years autism was rare – occurring in just five children out of per 10,000 live births. However, since the early 1990’s, the rate of autism has increased dramatically around the world, with figures as high as 60 per 10,000. Boys outnumber girls four to one. The US Federal Centers for Disease Control estimates that as many as 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with an ASD.

What Is the Longer-Term Outlook?

Age at intervention has a direct impact on outcome–typically, the earlier a child is treated, the better the prognosis will be. In recent years there has been a marked increase in the percentage of children who can attend school in a typical classroom and go on to live semi-independently in community settings. However, the majority of autistic persons remain impaired to some degree in their ability to communicate and socialize.

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