How Does Your Brain Score? Take the Staying Sharp Brain Health Assessment


Grocery Coupons

Grocery Coupons

Members can print free savings coupons

Brain Health Center

Brain Health Center

Learn how to live smart and stay sharp

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle

Members save on e-
readers and tablets

Caring for loved ones?

Caring for loved ones?

Find the resources you need


Diseases & Conditions A - Z
powered by Talix

Autism Overview

Autism Overview

Autism is one of a group of neurodevelopmental disorders known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs). These are characterized by problems with communication and social interaction. Patients often demonstrate restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped behavior patterns or interests.

Signs and Symptoms

According to the Autism Society, autism symptoms typically become clearly evident during early childhood, between 24 months and 6 years of age. Symptoms include a marked delay in language and cognitive development. There may be signs of obsessive and/or antisocial behavior.

Asperger syndrome, another PDD, may be referred to as “high functioning autism.” Asperger syndrome usually lacks the primary communication and cognitive problems that characterize classic autism.

Autism symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some people may be considered autistic but manage to function in society without many setbacks. For others, the condition can have a substantial impact on their lives.

Causes of Autism

The exact cause of autism and other autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is unknown. The most current science demonstrates that there is no single cause of autism. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role.

Prevalence of Autism

Autism spectrum disorders are found in individuals around the world, regardless of race, cultural, or economic background. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism does occur more often in boys than in girls, with a five-to-one male-to-female ratio.

The CDC estimates that one in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder. There are indications that instances of ASDs are on the rise. Some fault environmental factors. However, experts debate whether there is an actual increase in cases or just more frequent diagnoses.

Types of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Classic autism usually entails substantial problems in all of the areas affected by ASDs. Someone with Asperger syndrome has issues with behavioral and social interaction. The symptoms experienced by people with Asperger syndrome are usually less severe than those experienced by patients with classic autism.

There is still some debate as to whether Asperger syndrome is a variation of classic autism. Some argue that it should be classified as a separate disorder.

Pervasive Development Disorder–Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) is a classification for someone who exhibits signs of autism but does not fit into the categories of classic autism or Asperger. 

Treatments and Outlook

There is no cure for ASDs. The most effective treatments involve early and intensive behavioral interventions. It is generally agreed that the earlier a child is enrolled in these programs, the better their outlook will be.

Since conventional medicine has not found a cure for ASDs, patients and their advocates have sought alternatives, including:

  • high dose vitamins
  • chelation therapy
  • hyperbaric oxygen

There is currently no evidence that these treatments are effective. Parents should weigh the research and financial costs before investing in any of these therapies for their children.

Content licensed from:

Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Published on: Sep 10, 2014
Medically reviewed on: Sep 10, 2014: [Ljava.lang.Object;@7b666cca

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
Symptom Search
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Drug Interaction Checker
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Pill Identifier
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Drugs A-Z
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.



Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.