Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) represents a broad group of developmental disorders characterized by impaired social interactions, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive behaviors, or severely limited activities and interests.
- Our Commitment to Supporting Individuals on the Autism Spectrum and their Families
- The Affordable Care Act and Autism and Related Conditions
- CDC estimates 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder
Learn More about ASD
- Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Facts from the CDC
- Autism Spectrum Disorders from the NIMH
- Autism Information from the NINDS
- Autism Information from the NHGRI
- Autism from Medline Plus
Signs & Symptoms
ASDs begin before the age of three and last throughout a person's life, although symptoms may improve over time. Children with an ASD may seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age, but then stop gaining new skills, or lose the skills they once had.
Learn more about symptoms
- CDC ASD Signs and Symptoms – Examples of the range of symptoms, ‘red flag’ indicators, and social and communication skill issues.
- CDC checklist of skills – An interactive checklist to determine developmental milestones.
- NIMH Parent’s Guide to ASD
- Medline Plus autism symptoms
Screening & Diagnosis
Diagnosing ASDs can be difficult since there is no medical test – like a blood test – to diagnose the disorders. Instead, doctors must look at the child’s early development and behavior to make an assessment.
Learn more about screening and diagnosis
- CDC Autism Screening and Diagnosis
- Screening and Diagnosis for Healthcare Providers – CDC developmental screening and diagnostic tools.
- Medline Plus ASD exams and tests
As there is no single best treatment for all types of ASDs, many different treatments are available, such as:
- Auditory training
- Discrete trial training
- Vitamin therapy
- Anti-yeast therapy
- Facilitated communication
- Music therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Sensory integration
Learn more about treatment
- CDC Treatment Information – Early intervention services, types of treatments, behavior and communication approaches, dietary approaches, and medication.
- NIMH Treatment Information
- Medline Plus Treatment Information
Causes, Risk Factors, & Prevalence
We do not know all causes of ASDs. However, we have learned that there may be 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
- Causes and Risk Factors
- CDC Data & Statistics – prevalence, risk factors, characteristics, and economic costs associated with autism.
- Is Autism Inherited? – NHGRI information on genetics and autism.
Relationship of vaccines and autism
- Vaccines and Autism – CDC information on vaccines and autism.
- General Questions and Answers on Thimerosal – CDC information about Thimerosal.
- Thimerosal in Vaccines – FDA provides safety review of vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders.
- Thimerosal in Vaccines Questions and Answers – FDA discusses reports examining Thimerosal.
- Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism – Institute of Medicine report.
- Relationship of Vaccines and Autism – CDC research on the relationship between vaccines and autism.
- Vaccine Safety – CDC information on monitoring health problems after vaccination identifies possible vaccine side effects.
Research & Clinical Trials
Several government agencies are involved in activities related to autism research.
- CDC Features: Autism Research – Overview of CDC’s Study to Explore Early Development (SEED)
- NIH Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) – The ACE program comprises 11 research centers and networks that focus to identify the causes of ASD and develop new and improved treatments.
- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network – CDC funded programs to determine the number of people with autism.
- Centers for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology (CADDRE) – CDC established regional centers of excellence for autism and other developmental disabilities.
- Study to Explore Early Development (SEED) – CDC-funded study to help identify risk factors that may put children at risk for developmental disabilities.
- Autism Clinical Trials – National Institutes of Health ClinicalTrials.gov website that catalogs results for autism clinical trials.
- HRSA: Combating Autism Act – HRSA programs that address urgent issues affecting people with autism and their families.
- Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Publications – The Combating Autism Act (CAA) of 2006 (Public Law 109-416, PDF – 49KB) requires the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) to develop and annually update a Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan is an advisory document to the U.S. Congress, the HHS Secretary, and the Director of NIH regarding the needs and opportunities for ASD research.
- IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Research, 2012 Update
- Report on State Services to Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (PDF – 884 KB) – Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) ASD Services Project assess the implementation of evidence-based/promising practices through the lens of state experience. The report summarizes the current state of autism-related services in nine representative states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. It describes the types of services and their sources of funding, policy, staffing, and implementation issues that must be addressed to effectively serve people 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 ASDs, 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 (AHRQ).
- Autism Organizations – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke list of autism organizations.
- Autism websites – CDC links to other websites 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 (IACC) – Coordinates all efforts within HHS concerning autism spectrum disorder to combat autism through research, screening, intervention, and education.
Content last reviewed on March 27, 2014