Autistic disorder (sometimes called autism or classical ASD) is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).Autistic children have difficulties with social interaction, display problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and exhibit repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests. These behaviors can range in impact from mild to disabling. Autism varies widely in its severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when more debilitating handicaps mask it. Scientists aren’t certain what causes autism, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role.
There is no cure for autism. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of individual children. Treatment options include educational/bahavioral interventions, medications, and other therapies. Most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
For many children, autism symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Some children with autism grow up to lead normal or near-normal lives. Children whose language skills regress early in life, usually before the age of 3, appear to be at risk of developing epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. During adolescence, some children with autism may become depressed or experience behavioral problems. Parents of these children should be ready to adjust treatment for their child as needed. People with an ASD usually continue to need services and support as they get older but many are able to work successfully and live independently or within a supportive environment.
View a list of studies currently seeking patients.
View more studies on this condition.
Read additional information from Medline Plus.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
1600 Clifton Road
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
31 Center Drive, MSC 2320
Autism Network International (ANI)
Autistic-run self-help and advocacy organization that provides a forum for autistic people to share information, peer support, and tips for coping and problem-solving.
Association for Science in Autism Treatment
National not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization formed by a group of parents and professionals concerned about the care and treatment of individuals with autism. ASAT is dedicated to disseminating accurate, scientifically valid information about autism and its treatment options.
Autism National Committee (AUTCOM)
Works to protect and advance the human rights and civil rights of all persons with autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and related differences of communication and behavior.
Autism Research Institute (ARI)
Conducts research and disseminates research-based information on the cause, prevention, and treatment of autism and related disorders.
Autism Society of America
Promotes lifelong access and opportunities for persons within the autism spectrum and their families through advocacy, public awareness, education, and research programs.
MAAP Services for Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and PDD
Provides information, advice, and networking to families of more advanced individuals affected by the autism spectrum, including autism, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder. Publishes a quarterly newsletter.
Autism Speaks, Inc.
Nonprofit organization dedicated to finding the causes, prevention, effective treatment and, ultimately, a cure for autism spectrum disorders. Provides research grants and fellowships and sponsors scientific conferences.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
31 Center Drive, Rm. 2A32 MSC 2425
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
6001 Executive Blvd. Rm. 8184, MSC 9663
Autism Science Foundation
Provides funding and other assistance to scientists and organizations conducting, facilitating, publicizing and disseminating autism research and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism.
Content Provided By
NINDS Disorders is an index of neurological conditions provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). This valuable tool offers detailed descriptions, facts on treatment and prognosis, and patient organization contact information for over 250 identified neurological disorders.