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What is Autism?

What Is Autism? What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

 Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math and art.

Autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development. However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between 2 and 3 years of age. Autism Speaks continues to fund research on effective methods for earlier diagnosis, as early intervention with proven behavioral therapies can improve outcomes. Increasing autism awareness is a key aspect of this work and one in which our families and volunteers play an invaluable role. Learn more …

How Common Is Autism?

Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 88 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years. Careful research shows that this increase is only partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. Studies also show that autism is three to four times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States.

By way of comparison, this is more children than are affected by diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or Down syndrome, combined.* ASD affects over 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. Moreover, government autism statistics suggest that prevalence rates have increased 10 to 17 percent annually in recent years. There is no established explanation for this continuing increase, although improved diagnosis and environmental influences are two reasons often considered. Learn more …

What Causes Autism?

Not long ago, the answer to this question would have been “we have no idea.” Research is now delivering the answers. First and foremost, we now know that there is no one cause of autism just as there is no one type of autism. Over the last five years, scientists have identified a number of rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism. A small number of these are sufficient to cause autism by themselves. Most cases of autism, however, appear to be caused by a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors influencing early brain development.

In the presence of a genetic predisposition to autism, a number of nongenetic, or “environmental,” stresses appear to further increase a child’s risk. The clearest evidence of these autism risk factors involves events before and during birth. They include advanced parental age at time of conception (both mom and dad), maternal illness during pregnancy and certain difficulties during birth, particularly those involving periods of oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain. It is important to keep in mind that these factors, by themselves, do not cause autism. Rather, in combination with genetic risk factors, they appear to modestly increase risk.

A small but growing body of research suggests that autism risk is less among children whose mothers took prenatal vitamins (containing folic acid) in the months before and after conception.

Increasingly, researchers are looking at the role of the immune system in autism. Autism Speaks is working to increase awareness and investigation of these and other issues, where further research has the potential to improve the lives of those who struggle with autism. Learn more …


Hours of Operation – Summer
1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m
Hours of Operation – School in Session
2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m
Ryan Woods Autism Foundation
Attn: Ian Woods, Program Director
100 Riverview Center, Suite 102
(lower level; back of Middletown Police Department-Dingwall Dr.)                                                                                
Middletown, CT 06457
 Phone: 860-788-7277 
Driving directions
From Hartford:
I-91 S to  9 S
Exit 15
Left @ traffic light onto Main Street
Follow Main Street to Court Street
Left onto Court Street
Park in the Superior Court parking garage (to your right). Upper level
You will see the center over the railings of the parking garage
Walk downstairs to the Riverview Plaza
(we are located lower level) Suite 102
100 Riverview Center
From New Haven:
Coming from I-95N to 91N
Take Exit 18 to merge on to CT-66E
Follow Route 66 (Washington Street, Middletown) 
Washington Street leads you to Main Street, Middletown 
Turn Right onto Main Street 
Turn Left onto Court Street 
Park in the Superior Court parking garage (to your right). Upper level
You will see the center over the railings of the parking garage
Walk downstairs to the Riverview Plaza
(we are located lower level) Suite 102
100 Riverview Center
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