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Autism Society of East Tennessee

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Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. It is part of a group of pervasive developmental disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) that significantly affects how a person perceives the world, interacts with others, and communicates. As its name implies, ASD is a spectrum disorder that affects individuals differently and with varying degrees of severity. 

ASD is more common than childhood cancer, cystic fibrosis, and multiple sclerosis combined. It is estimated that as many as 1 out of every 68 children born today will be diagnosed with some form of ASD. 

While ASD is typically diagnosed in children, it is a lifelong disorder that affects individuals of all ages. There is no known single, specific cause of autism. In some families there does appear to be a pattern of autism or related disabilities – which suggests there is a genetic basis to the disorder – although no single gene has been directly linked to autism. Research today seems to indicate that the basis for autism does indeed lie in both genetics and in environmental health, with no single underlying cause, but rather causative factors that come into play differently for each individuals.


Several outdated theories about causes and characteristics of autism have been proven to be false.
• Autism is not a mental illness
• Autism is not the result of poor parenting;
• Children with autism are not unruly or spoiled kids who just have a behavior problem;
• The vast majority of persons with autism are not savants, like the character portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man;
• Children with autism are not without feelings and emotions.
Furthermore, no known psychological factors in the development of the child have been shown to cause autism.



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