Beginning in the early 1990's, educators and mental health professionals in the United States and Western Europe began documenting a dramatic increase in the number of cases of infantile autism. Autism is a complex and severe developmental disorder that affects a person's ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the environment. Those affected may avoid making eye contact and lack the ability to read faces for signs of emotion or other cues. In California alone, there has been a 273% increase in the number of children affected by this sad, lifelong condition.