What Is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a term for a group of complex disorders of brain development. As the name implies, the disorder is characterized by varying degrees of difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.


In May 2013, the latest version of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual was published, merging all autism disorders into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Previously, the DSM recognized several distinct subtypes, including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. 



Can Autism Be Cured?

While there is no "cure" for autism, early intervention can be useful in improving communication and social skills.


There are a variety of therapies for children on the autism spectrum, including ABA therapy 

Early Signs

Babies develop at their own rate, but infants on the autism spectrum may display some characteristics. Some signs to watch for include:

  • Does not respond to name by 12 months of age
  • Avoids eye-contact
  • Prefers to play alone
  • Does not share interests with others
  • Only interacts to achieve a desired goal
  • Has flat or inappropriate facial expressions
  • Does not understand personal space boundaries
  • Avoids or resists physical contact
  • Is not comforted by others during distress
  • Has trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about own feeling


Your pediatrician can help you find resources for screening and diagnosis.