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Autism

What is Autism?

Autism (sometimes called “classical autism”) is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Autism is characterized by three distinctive behaviors. 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 target the core symptoms of autism: impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and obsessive or repetitive routines and interests. 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.

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.More information about the Autism Coordinating Committee is available at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/autismiacc/index.cfm.

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.

Organizations

Association for Science in Autism Treatment
P.O. Box 188
Crosswicks, NJ   08515-0188
info@asatonline.org
http://www.asatonline.org
Tel: 781-397-8943
Fax: 781-397-8887

Autism National Committee (AUTCOM)
P.O. Box 429
Forest Knolls, CA   94933
http://www.autcom.org

Autism Network International (ANI)
P.O. Box 35448
Syracuse, NY   13235-5448
jisincla@mailbox.syr.edu
http://ani.autistics.org

Autism Research Institute (ARI)
4182 Adams Avenue
San Diego, CA   92116
director@autism.com
http://www.autismresearchinstitute.com
Tel: 619-281-7165
Fax: 619-563-6840

Autism Society of America
7910 Woodmont Ave.
Suite 300
Bethesda, MD   20814-3067
http://www.autism-society.org
Tel: 301-657-0881 800-3AUTISM (328-8476)
Fax: 301-657-0869

MAAP Services for Autism, Asperger's, and PDD
P.O. Box 524
Crown Point, IN   46308
info@maapservices.org
http://www.maapservices.org
Tel: 219-662-1311
Fax: 219-662-0638

Autism Speaks, Inc.
2 Park Avenue
11th Floor
New York, NY   10016
contactus@autismspeaks.org
http://www.autismspeaks.org
Tel: 212-252-8584 California: 310-230-3568
Fax: 212-252-8676

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Special Education Programs
P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC   20013-1492
nichcy@aed.org
http://www.nichcy.org
Tel: 800-695-0285
Fax: 202-884-8441

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
http://www.nichd.nih.gov
Tel: 301-496-5133
Fax: 301-496-7101

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Information Clearinghouse
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD   20892-3456
nidcdinfo@nidcd.nih.gov
http://www.nidcd.nih.gov
Tel: 800-241-1044 800-241-1055 (TTD/TTY)

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
6001 Executive Blvd. Rm. 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD   20892-9663
nimhinfo@nih.gov
http://www.nimh.nih.gov
Tel: 301-443-4513/866-615-NIMH (-6464) 301-443-8431 (TTY)
Fax: 301-443-4279