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About Autism

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of developmental disabilities. ASD affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is usually nothing about how a person with 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. People with ASD handle information in their brain differently than other people. Scientists do not know yet exactly what causes autism, but researchers continue to study factors that may bring us closer to understanding the disorder.

These are early signs that can help you recognize ASD:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms, such as hand-flapping or twirling objects
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects

Increased awareness can help families know what to look for and how to get help. The earlier an individual is diagnosed, the earlier the individual can begin benefiting from specialized intervention approaches.

To answer parents' questions about autism spectrum disorders, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers a collection of interviews with pediatricians, researchers and parents. Visit "Sound Advice on Autism" at http://www.aap.org/audio/autism/.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers an autism-specific webpage and various publication at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html.