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Autism Overview

Written by FoundHealth, Olivia Cerf.

These pages are addressed to the parents of a child who has autism.

Autism is a complex neurological disorder. It may or may not be noticed during infancy. It is usually identified during early childhood (aged 2-6 years). People with autism have difficulty communicating and forming relationships.

Autism spectrum disorders, which include autism, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder, affect about 1 in 110 American children aged 3-17 years old. It may affect more boys than girls. Autism is a lifelong condition that varies in severity depending on the person. Some people with autism need to be cared for their entire life and have other conditions, such as seizures and intellectual disabilities. Others are able to live on their own and work.

The exact cause of autism is not known. Researchers have identified the following factors that may increase a person's risk of developing autism:

  • Genetic factors
  • Environmental factors
  • Problems during pregnancy or delivery that could interfere with brain development
  • Exposure to environmental toxins

What are the risk factors for autism?

What are the symptoms of autism?

How is autism diagnosed?

What are the treatments for autism?

Are there screening tests for autism?

How can I reduce my child's risk of autism?

What questions should I ask my doctor?

What is it like to live with autism?

Where can I get more information about autism?



Autism. American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: . Accessed March 6, 2009.

Autism Society of America. Autism 101 course. Autism Society of America website. Available at: . Accessed June 15, 2010.

Autism spectrum disorders (pervasive developmental disorders). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website. Available at: . Updated April 2008. Accessed September 11, 2008.

National Center on Birth Defects and Environmental Disabilities. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: . Updated June 2008. Accessed September 11, 2008.

Prevalence of the autism spectrum disorders in multiple areas of the United States, surveillance years 2000 and 2002. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: . . Updated February 8, 2007. Accessed March 6, 2009.

Rapin I. An 8-year-old boy with autism. JAMA. 2001;285:1749-1757.

What causes autism. Autism Society of America website. Available at: . Updated January 2008. Accessed September 11, 2008.

12/31/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Rice C. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders—Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, United States, 2006. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2009;58(SS10):1.

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