Learn more about autism spectrum disorder,which can vary significantly in character and severity.

What Is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Although ASD varies significantly in character and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group. Experts estimate that one out of 88 children will have an ASD1. Males are four times more likely to have an ASD than females.

How Is Autism Diagnosed?

ASD varies widely in severity and symptoms and might go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected children or when it is masked by more debilitating handicaps. Health care providers will often use a questionnaire or other screening instrument to gather information about a child’s development and behavior. Some screening instruments rely solely on parent observations, while others rely on a combination of parent and doctor observations. If screening instruments indicate the possibility of an ASD, a more comprehensive evaluation is usually indicated.

A comprehensive evaluation requires a multidisciplinary team, including a psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist, and other professionals who diagnose children with ASDs. The team members will conduct a thorough neurological assessment and in-depth cognitive and language testing. Because hearing problems can cause behaviors that could be mistaken for an ASD, children with delayed speech development should also have their hearing tested.

To Learn More

Association for Science in Autism Treatment

Autism National Committee (AUTCOM)

Autism Network International

Autism Research Institute (ARI)

Autism Science Foundation

Autism Society of America

Autism Speaks, Inc.

MAAP Services for Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and PDD

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, March 30, 2012.