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Autism Information

Autism puzzle pieces connected together.Autism - or more precisely the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) - represents a broad group of developmental disorders characterized by impaired social interactions, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors, or severely limited activities and interests.

Topics:

General Information
Signs & Symptoms
Screening & Diagnosis
Treatments
Causes, Risk Factors, & Prevalence
Research & Clinical Trials
Publications
Organizations

General Information

Signs & Symptoms

ASDs begin before the age of three and last throughout a person's life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children with an ASD show hints of future problems within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms might not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with an ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had.

Learn more about symptoms

Screening & Diagnosis

Diagnosing ASDs can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. ASDs can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age two, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable.

Learn more about screening and diagnosis

Treatments

There is no single best treatment for all children with ASDs. There are many different types of treatments available, such as: auditory training, discrete trial training, vitamin therapy, anti-yeast therapy, facilitated communication, music therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and sensory integration.

Learn more about treatments

  • Autism Treatments - CDC information on early intervention services, types of treatments, behavior and communication approaches, dietary approaches, and medication.
  • How is ASD Treated? - Information from the National Institute of Mental Health.
  • Treatment – Medline Plus information on treatments.

Causes, Risk Factors, & Prevalence

We do not know all of the causes of ASDs. However, we have learned that there are likely many causes for multiple types of ASDs. There may be many different factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental, biologic and genetic factors.

Learn more about causes, risk factors, and prevalence

Relationship of vaccines and autism

Research & Clinical Trials

Several government agencies are involved in activities related to autism research.

Publications

  • Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Publications

    The Combating Autism Act (CAA) of 2006 (Public Law 109-416, PDF – 49KB) requires the IACC to develop and annually update a Strategic Plan for ASD research. Each year, the members of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) identify recent research findings that made the most impact on the field. The Strategic Plan is an advisory document to the U.S. Congress, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regarding the needs and opportunities for ASD research.

  • Report on State Services to Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) - Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) ASD Services Project (PDF, [883.94KB]) - The report assesses the implementation of evidence-based/promising practices through the lens of state experience. The report summarizes the current state of Autism Spectrum Disorder-related services in nine representative states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. It describes the types of services and supports provided under the auspices of state and local governments; the sources of funding for those programs; and the policy, staffing, and implementation issues that must be addressed to effectively serve persons with ASD.
  • Therapies for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders (PDF [5.9 MB]) - Some medical and behavioral treatments show promise for reducing certain behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders, but more research is needed to assess the potential benefits and harms, according to a new report funded by HHS’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Organizations

  • Autism Organizations – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke list of autism organizations
  • Autism Web sites – CDC maintained links to other Web sites including those for families, financial resources for health care, assistive technology, healthcare providers, early intervention, educators, researchers, public and restricted-use data sets, and federal resources.
  • Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee Coordinates all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services concerning autism spectrum disorder to combat autism through research, screening, intervention and education.

Content created by Assist. Sec./Public Affairs - Digital Communications Division
Content last reviewed on April 6, 2011