Autism Awareness Month Begins Today

Today marks the start of National Autism Awareness Month -- a month the Autism Society says draws attention to the increasing need for "concern and awareness" about the condition being called a national epidemic.

About 1 in 110 children in the U.S. has an ASD, an 'autism spectrum disorder' -- developmental disabliites that can cause social, behavioral and communication challenge.

More people than ever are being diagnosed with ASDs, but there's no definitive answer whether that is due to broadening definitions of what actually constitutes an ASD, better diagnosis efforts or an actual increase in the number of people with ASDs.

Though experts and advocates have engaged in increasingly heated discussions over autism's possible causes, the consensus is that the condition typically appears in children age three and younger. There is no cure, but treatments do exist and can range from behavior and communication therapies to medications aimed at controlling some of the symptoms.

More cutting-edge therapies exist, too. Recently, a robot named Kaspar got attention for its ability to help children with autism. The robot, of which there are several versions, is programmed to smile, frown and laugh, helping them learn and understand key facial interactions. Certain iPhone and iPad applications are also being used as educational tools for autistic children.

This autism awareness month, are you interested in helping out?

The Autism Society suggests that you seek out local society chapter events or even establish your own. It also encourages people to get involved in its "Vote4Autism" advocacy campaign. You can also check out organizations like Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism advocacy group.