What is Autism

Autism is one in a group of several developmental disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Autism Spectrum Disorders refer to the wide range of developmental disorders that affect children across the spectrum and include five classifications. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, these disorders are most often diagnosed in early childhood and range from a severe form, called autistic disorder, through pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), to a much milder form, Asperger's syndrome. The ASDs also include Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder, two very rare disorders. The autism spectrum disorders are developmental disabilities that cause significant impairments in social interaction and communication. The ability of individuals with ASDs to think and learn ranges from gifted to severely challenged.

Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and socialize with other people. Autism also is associated with repetitive behaviors and strict routines; symptoms range from very mild to quite severe. Autism typically begins before the age of 3, is four times more likely to occur in boys than girls, and lasts throughout a person's life.