What is autism spectrum disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects social interaction / social skills, communication, and behavior. It is called a spectrum because it can range from mild to severe, and individuals with ASD can have varying symptoms and levels of impairment. The typical age range for diagnosis is in adolescents from 2 to 18 years old, with some diagnoses made as early as 12 months of age.

The diagnosis of ASD is based on behavioral symptoms and signs, and it is not caused by vaccines. Risk factors for ASD include genetic conditions, environmental factors, and prenatal and perinatal complications. Early signs of ASD can include developmental delays, lack of social communication, and repetitive behaviors.

Types of Autism Spectrum Disorder

There are different types of ASD, including autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). High-functioning individuals with ASD may have good language skills, but still struggle with social situations, while others may have intellectual disability and epilepsy.

ASD Symptoms

Common symptoms of ASD can include..

  • hand flapping.
  • lack of eye contact.
  • difficulty with facial expressions.
  • Obsessive compulsive behaviors

Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder

Healthcare providers, including pediatricians and neurologists, are involved in the diagnosis and management of ASD. Clinicians use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and evidence-based practices to diagnose and treat ASD. Early intervention and behavioral therapy are important for young children with ASD, as well as special education in school. Caregivers of individuals with ASD may also use supplements and medications to manage symptoms.


The prevalence of ASD has been increasing in recent years, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating that 1 in 54 young children have ASD. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Autism Speaks are organizations that support research and awareness of ASD. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all young children be screened for ASD at 18 and 24 months of age, and referral to specialists if necessary.