Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder which affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact, leaving many individuals unable to speak or care for themselves. The cause of autism is unknown but it currently affects nearly 1.5 million Americans. It is estimated that by 2023 nearly 380,000 Americans will be diagnosed with autism as it increases by 10-17% per year. Nearly 25,000 people in Pennsylvania have been diagnosed with autism, almost 4,000 are adults. Allegheny County has the highest number of autistic residents with 2,235. Westmoreland County has 658 autistic residents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1 in 10 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder. Despite the increase in diagnoses there are few services available for individuals who are over the age of 21. Pennsylvania’s Adult Autism Waiver Program can only accommodate 200 individuals state wide (Tribune Review, 10/2/2011)