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
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.
Association for Science in Autism Treatment
P.O. Box 188
Crosswicks, NJ 08515-0188
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
Autism Society of America
7910 Woodmont Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814-3067
Tel: 301-657-0881 800-3AUTISM (328-8476)
MAAP Services for Autism, Asperger's, and PDD
P.O. Box 524
Crown Point, IN 46308
Autism Speaks, Inc.
2 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Tel: 212-252-8584 California: 310-230-3568
National Dissemination Center for Children with
U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Special Education Programs
P.O. Box 1492
Washington, DC 20013-1492
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Rm. 2A32 MSC 2425
Bethesda, MD 20892-2425
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication
Disorders Information Clearinghouse
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
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
Tel: 301-443-4513/866-615-NIMH (-6464) 301-443-8431 (TTY)