What is Autism?

Date Updated
6/30/17

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), also referred to as Autism, is a developmental disability characterized by impairments in social interactions and communication, as well as a pattern of repetitive or obsessive behaviors and interests. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. There is no known cure for ASD, but interventions have been identified that can reduce behavioral symptoms and improve academic, employment, and social outcomes. The cause of ASD is not known; however, evidence suggests that both genetic factors and environmental triggers may play roles.

ASD is diagnosed by a pattern of behaviors. Symptoms of ASD can be identified by the time a child is eighteen months old, and a reliable diagnosis can be made by the time a child is three years old. ASD is significantly more common in boys than in girls. The number of children identified with ASD has been growing in the past decade, and the latest analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children has ASD.

For additional information and resources, consult The Child with Autism by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Autism Information Page of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Health's ASD Fact sheet, or About Autism by the Autism Society of America.