Autism isn’t actually any one disorder, rather it is a general term for a group of brain development disorders. Autism can be characterized in many different ways, including difficulties socializing, communicating, and paying attention as well as displaying repetitive behaviors among others. Each of the characteristics of autism can present in varying degrees. Although we use one simple term to describe this group of disorders, how each presents in a person is anything but uniform and simple. With autism diagnosis at unprecedented numbers, it’s important for everyone to know the facts. We teamed up with our partner, and November’s Cause of the Month, Autism Speaks, to bring you what you need to know.

Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 68 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years.

Autism is now the fastest-growing serious developmental disorder in the U.S.

Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

There is no medical detection or cure for autism.

On average, autism costs a family $60,000 a year.

The National Institutes of Health spend $169 million per year directly on autism research; that’s 0.55% of their $30.86 billion budget.

The following “red flags” are used to indicate a child’s risk for an autism spectrum disorder: no big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter; no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months; no babbling by 12 months; no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months; no words by 16 months; no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months; any loss of speech, babbling, or social skills at any age.

Most cases of autism involve a complex and variable combination of genetic risk and environmental factors that influence early brain development.

Many persons with autism have exceptional visual skills, and/or excel in music, math and art.

Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) considered to be on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum.

PDD-NOS, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, is the diagnosis applied to children or adults who are on the autism spectrum but do not fully meet the criteria for another ASD such as autistic disorder (sometimes called “classic” autism) or Asperger Syndrome.