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NINDS Autism Spectrum Disorder Information Page

Condensed from Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet

Table of Contents (click to jump to sections)

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What is 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.

Is there any 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.

What is the 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.

What research is being done?

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.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Autism Clinical Trials


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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
Tel: 800-311-3435 404-639-3311/404-639-3543

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
Tel: 301-496-5133
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
Tel: 301-496-7243/800-241-1044 800-241-1055 (TTD/TTY)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
111 T.W. Alexander Drive
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
Tel: 919-541-3345

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
6001 Executive Blvd. Rm. 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Tel: 301-443-4513/866-415-8051 301-443-8431 (TTY)
Fax: 301-443-4279

Association for Science in Autism Treatment
P.O. Box 1447
Hoboken, NJ 07030

Autism National Committee (AUTCOM)
P.O. Box 429
Forest Knolls, CA 94933

Autism Network International (ANI)
P.O. Box 35448
Syracuse, NY 13235-5448

Autism Research Institute (ARI)
4182 Adams Avenue
San Diego, CA 92116
Tel: 619-281-7165 866-366-3361
Fax: 619-563-6840

Autism Science Foundation
28 West 39th Street
Suite 502
New York, NY 10018
Tel: 212-391-3913
Fax: 212-228-3557

Autism Society of America
4340 East-West Highway
Suite 350
Bethesda, MD 20814
Tel: 301-657-0881 800-3AUTISM (328-8476)
Fax: 301-657-0869

Autism Speaks, Inc.
1 East 33rd Street
4th Floor
New York, NY 10016
Tel: 212-252-8584 (888) 288-4762
Fax: 212-252-8676

MAAP Services for Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and PDD
P.O. Box 524
Crown Point, IN 46308
Tel: 219-662-1311
Fax: 219-662-1315

Related NINDS Publications and Information
Publicaciones en Español

Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last Modified November 3, 2015