Autism Spectrum Disorder

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.

Treatment

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.

Prognosis

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.

Research

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts research in its laboratories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and also supports additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country.  As part of the Children’s Health Act of 2000, the NINDS and three sister institutes have formed the NIH Autism Coordinating Committee to expand, intensify, and coordinate NIH’s autism research. As part of the Children’s Health Act of 2000, the NINDS and three sister institutes have formed the NIH Autism Coordinating Committee to expand, intensify, and coordinate NIH’s autism research. Eight dedicated research centers across the country have been established as “Centers of Excellence in Autism Research” to bring together researchers and the resources they need.   The Centers are conducting basic and clinical research, including investigations into causes, diagnosis, early detection, prevention, and treatment of autism.

Organizations

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
inquiry@cdc.gov
http://www.cdc.gov
Tel: Atlanta

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Rm. 2A32 MSC 2425
Bethesda, MD 20892-2425
http://www.nichd.nih.gov
Tel: Bethesda
Fax: 301-496-7101

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, MSC 2320
Bethesda, MD 20892-2320
nidcdinfo@nidcd.nih.gov
http://www.nidcd.nih.gov
Tel: Bethesda

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

National Institutes of Health, DHHS
111 T.W. Alexander Drive
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
webcenter@niehs.nih.gov
http://www.niehs.nih.gov
Tel: Research Triangle Park

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NINDS Disorders is an index of neurological conditions provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This valuable tool offers detailed descriptions, facts on treatment and prognosis, and patient organization contact information for over 500 identified neurological disorders.

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