What is autism?

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 1 in 44 children born today have or will eventually have autism. That means that an estimated 1.5 million Americans have a neurodevelopmental disability that can limit a child's lifelong potential for independence.  Autism is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, and it is about 4 times more common among boys than among girls. Autism characteristics differ among individuals with the same diagnosis, yet all affected have impaired communication skills, difficulties initiating and sustaining social interactions and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior and/or interests.

One of the major roadblocks to understanding the causes of and finding effective treatments for autism is that it has diverse outcomes.  Some individuals have seizures, but others do not. Some have troubling gastrointestinal problems, but others have none.  Some have severe developmental delays, but others have normal or even enhanced IQs.  This heterogeneity raises the possibility that there are several types of autism, with a variety of causes.  This complexity limits both scientific progress and the development of effective treatments.  Thus far, research on autism has not produced precise definitions of autism subtypes based on biomedical and behavioral characteristics.



The websites listed are independent of the UC Davis MIND Institute and Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (CEDD).  Resources are provided for information only and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of the UC Davis MIND Institute and Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

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