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Autism, Rising Prevalence of: Theories

Autism is a developmental disorder defined by social and communication impairments, along with a pattern of restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped behaviors. Historically, the symptoms of autism were very narrowly defined, although it is now recognized that individuals with autism fall along a continuum or spectrum with respect to the severity, number, and type of symptoms displayed. Alongside this expanded conceptualization of an “autism spectrum,” increases in autism’s prevalence have been observed. Prevalence rate refers to the proportion of a population affected by a specific condition during a specified time period. Autism now appears to be much more common than originally believed, and this higher prevalence has resulted in intense public scrutiny and scientific inquiry. This entry provides a brief history of reported prevalence rates for ...

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