What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD for short) are a group of developmental disabilities where an individual processes information differently in his or her brain. The “spectrum” in “autism spectrum” refers to the fact that ASD affects each individual in different ways, with more mild or more severe symptoms. High functioning autism and Asperger syndrome fall on the high functioning end of the spectrum, whereas more classic autism symptoms are part of the lower functioning end of the spectrum. All children, teens, and adults with ASD are unique individuals. However, similar characteristics from the autism spectrum may characterize them in particular diagnoses.

Children are typically diagnosed with ASD between the ages of 18 months and school age. While the average prevalence of children diagnosed with ASD has risen to 1 in 110 children in the United States, the causes of ASD are still unknown. Many organizations, universities, and scientists are doing research to determine the potential causes of these disorders. Research shows that ASD is caused by a complicated mix of environmental and genetic factors that are still being investigated.

Additional Information:

To learn more about autism spectrum disorders, please visit the following sources:

“Learn the Signs. Act Early” campaign by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC ASD Web site

Autism Society of America