The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the primary federal funding organization on research on autism spectrum disorder. For information from NIMH about ASD, click here.
NIH participates in the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), a Federal advisory committee that is designed to coordinate Federal efforts and provide advice on issues related to ASD. The committee is composed of representatives from various U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies, the Department of Education, and other governmental organizations, as well as public members, including individuals with ASD and representatives of patient advocacy organizations. One responsibility of the IACC is to develop a strategic plan for ASD research, which guides research programs supported by NIH and other participating organizations.
Information from the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD, sometimes called autism) is a developmental disorder that affects how people socially interact, behave, learn, and communicate. People may exhibit repetitive behaviors or narrow, obsessive interests. Not everyone with ASD will have all behaviors and its impact can range from mild to disabling. Learning and thinking can range from extremely gifted to needing severe help. ASD is called a developmental disorder since symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life. Both children and adults can have ASD. Scientists aren’t certain what causes ASD, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role.
The term ASD now refers to several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately. A team of healthcare professionals with experience may be involved in diagnosing ASD. Children should be screened for developmental delays during periodic checkups and specifically for autism at 18- and 24-month well child visits.
Currently there is no cure for ASD. Treatment involves education, various therapies, and behavioral interventions and can improve a person’s symptoms and abilities. Some symptoms can be treated with medication. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies and interventions that meet the specific needs of the person. Most professionals agree that the earlier the intervention, the better.
For many children, autism symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Some children with ASD grow up to lead healthy, independent lives or interact well within a supportive environment. Children whose language skills regress early in life, usually before the age of 3, appear to be at risk of developing epilepsy. During adolescence, some children with autism may become depressed or experience behavioral problems.