What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability. Children and adults with ASD have difficulty with social communication/interaction and exhibit restrictive and/or repetitive patterns of behavior. There is a wide range of ability among people with ASD. Some people with ASD are gifted and others need significant levels of support to ensure their health and well-being. While great strides are being made, there is no known cause, or a known singular effective treatment for ASD.
People with ASD have challenges in the areas of social communication/interaction and restricted/repetitive behaviors. A few examples:
Social Communication/ Interaction
- Difficulty establishing or maintaining back-and forth conversations and interactions
- Inability to initiate an interaction
- Problems with shared attention or sharing of emotions and interests with others
- Abnormal eye contact, posture, facial expressions, tone of voice and gestures, as well as an inability to understand these
- Lack of interest in other people
- Difficulties in pretend play
- Engaging in age appropriate social activities
- Problems adjusting to different social expectations.
- Stereotyped or repetitive speech, motor movements or use of objects
- Excessive adherence to routines
- Ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior
- Excessive resistance to change
- Highly restricted interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus
- Hyper or hypo reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment
No two people with autism are the same. There is no single behavior that is always present in every individual with ASD.
Resources and Data on Autism Today
View our Autism State Profiles for a state-of-the-state report of ASD services in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have additional information about autism.
Read the full glossary of ASD-related terminology.
There is Hope
ASD is a lifelong disorder. And while there is no cause or cure, nor a known singular effective treatment, it is treatable. People with ASD – at any age – can make significant progress through therapy and treatments, and can lead meaningful and productive lives. Experts agree that early diagnosis and early intervention are critical – early intervention leads to positive outcomes.