Learn about autism (autism spectrum disorder)

What is autism? Also called autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. Learn about this disability and the resources available to support you and your child.

Also called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), this is a complex condition. There’s a lot to learn about what it is, and what it isn’t!

The name reflects that there is a wide spectrum — or range — of how severely a child may be affected, and in what ways.  It can be very different in different kids.

Autism has to do with brain growth and development.  It can affect people's social interactions, communication, and behaviors. 

People with autism often have trouble relating to people in ways that we consider typical. 

Autism does not limit how smart kids are!  Children with autism can be very smart and talented, sometimes in very specific and impressive ways.

They may have trouble with things like these:

  • expressing themselves or reading the expressions of other people

  • repetitive physical behaviors

  • sensitivity to things like noise or textures of clothing

  • a need to have a very structured routine, and a tendency to get upset easily 

Autism can look very different from one child to the next. Some kids have trouble with things like: challenges behaviors that are hard to control, communicating verbally, or forming social relationships. Each child will have their own strengths and challenges, and may respond to treatments differently.

This is why it is so important to take the time to find out what works best for your child. There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer! 

Click on the box below to learn more:

Autism is pretty common: 1 in every 59 children is diagnosed with ASD.

It affects people of all ages, ethnicities and income levels. We don't know yet what causes it, but it starts very early as a child's brain is developing.

People with autism can have very different symptoms.

Here are some examples:

  • Speech: some may not talk at all, others may talk very well, but say things that don't always fit with the situation. Even if they don't talk, they may understand everything you say.

  • Learning: some may be very cognitively impaired. This means they learn very slowly and may act like a child who is much younger. Others may have very high IQs, excellent memories and impressive talents.

  • Social skills: some have very little interest in interacting with other people. Others may be very social, but interact in awkward ways. Many have trouble forming strong friendships.

  • Behaviors: some kids have frequent tantrums and are hard to control. Others may be very quite and docile. Many have repetitive behaviors, like pacing back and forth or fidgeting with a favorite item. Some fixate on certain topics or objects and find it hard to focus on other things.

Click the link at the bottom of the page to download a more detailed description of autism. (When you click it, it will show up in the bottom left corner of your screen or open in a new tab.)

Sources: Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Interactive Autism Network, Autism Speaks

Now that you've learned a bit more about what autism is, let's take a look at what you can do!

The first steps are to connect with support and get ready emotionally. Then we'll talk about therapy and treatment.


Sources: Interactive Autism Network, Autism Speaks, Autism Society, CDC