What is AUTISM?

  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of developmental disabilities caused by a problem with the brain. Scientists do not know yet exactly what causes this problem. ASDs can impact a person's functioning at different levels, from very mildly to severely. There is usually nothing about how a person with an ASD looks that sets them apart from other people, but they may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most people.
  • The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary – from gifted to severely challenged. Autistic disorder is the most commonly known type of ASD, but there are others, including "pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified" (PDD-NOS) and Asperger Syndrome.
  • People with ASDs may have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASDs also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. ASDs begin during early childhood and last throughout a person's life.
  • A person's inability to regulate his or her processing of the environment through the sensory system, including smelling, touching, seeing, and hearing, and sensitivity to external movements, are early characteristics a parent or caregiver may notice.
  • Today, 1 in 110 individuals is diagnosed with ASD, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls.
    While there is no cure for ASD, there are treatments and educational approaches that may reduce some of the challenges associated with ASD.