Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.
The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less. People with ASD might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.
Children or adults with ASD might:
not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)
not look at objects when another person points at them
have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
avoid eye contact and want to be alone
have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to
appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)
repeat actions over and over again
have trouble adapting when a routine changes
have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using) We do not know all of the causes of ASD. However, we have learned that there are likely many causes for multiple types of ASD. There may be many different factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental, biologic and genetic factors. ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but is about 4 times more common among boys than among girls. Research shows that early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development. Services can help the child meet developmental milestones and interact with others. There is no cure for ASD.41 But not everyone believes that autism is a condition or disorder or that it needs to be cured.