Autism is a developmental disorder recognised as a disease of civilisation and, according to the United Nations, is among the most important global health problems (alongside cancer, diabetes and AIDS).

Experts at the World Health Organisation (WHO) have estimated that autism affects approximately 1 in 100 children. The disorder is also known to be the most common cause of disability in young children under the age of five. Autism is four times more likely to develop in boys.

The number of people with a diagnosis of ASD is increasing. This is due to an expansion of the definition of the disorder, better detection and greater knowledge of the problem. Conjectures are also being made about a link between the higher incidence and various environmental factors.