Autism Speaks
Learn about the different types of autism spectrum disorders, how autism affects individuals and families and more with these frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

About The Disorder:

Daily Life & Managment:

News & Research:

About the Disorder

Q: What is autism?

  A: Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences.

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Q: How common is autism?

  A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls.

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Q: What causes autism?

  A: We know that there’s no one cause of autism. Research suggests that autism often develops from a combination of genetic and nongenetic, or environmental, influences. These influences appear to increase the risk that a child will develop autism. However, it’s important to keep in mind that increased risk is not the same as cause. For example, some gene changes associated with autism can also be found in people who don’t have the disorder. Similarly, not everyone exposed to an environmental risk factor for autism will develop the disorder. In fact, most will not.

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Q: What are the symptoms of autism?

  A: Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors.

A person with ASD might:

  • Not respond to their name
  • Not point at objects or things of interest
  • Not play “pretend” games
  • Avoid eye contact

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Q: What is Asperger Syndrome?

  A: Asperger syndrome is one of several previously separate subtypes of autism that were folded into the single diagnosis autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with the publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual in 2013.

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Daily Life & Managment

Q: What should I do if I suspect my child may have autism?

  A: Don’t wait. Talk to your doctor or contact your state’s Early Intervention Services department about getting your child screened for autism.

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Q:What if I suspect I have autism?

  A: Many persons with Asperger syndrome or other high-functioning forms of autism never received a diagnosis as a child. They may be diagnosed as adults when seeking help for related problems at work or in their social lives. Consider asking your physician for a referral to an appropriate specialist. Professionals qualified to make an adult autism diagnosis include licensed clinical psychologists, neurologists and psychiatrists.

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Q:What does it mean to be “On the Spectrum”?

  A: Each individual with autism is unique. Many of those with autism have exceptional abilities in visual, music and academic skills. About 40 percent have intellectual disability (IQ less than 70), and many have normal to above average intelligence. Because the effects of autism can vary greatly from one individual to another, individuals are considered to be “on the spectrum” depending on the degree to which they are affected by the disorder.

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Q:How do I deal with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis?

  A: For adults, an autism diagnosis may bring relief in terms of an explanation for their lifelong struggles. For parents, the first months after learning that their child has a developmental disorder can be emotional, confusing and challenging. For this reason, Autism Speaks has developed the 100 Day Tool Kit, to help families navigate the often-tumultuous first 100 days after a child’s diagnosis. You can download a free copy here.

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Q:How do I get my child the help he or she needs?

  A: In addition to the Early Intervention Services mentioned above, it’s important to make sure your child has a knowledgeable and reputable healthcare team. This means finding doctors, therapists, psychologists and teachers who understand and have experience with autism and can respond to his shifting needs appropriately.

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Q:Will my child be able to attend school?

  A: Absolutely. In fact, it’s a child’s right: According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1990, your child deserves access to a “free and appropriate” education funded by the government, whether it be in a mainstream or special education classroom.

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News & Research

Q:Are vaccinies to blame?

  A: Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.

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Q:What is the Autism Speaks Research Program?

  A: The Autism Speaks research program is dedicating to enhancing lives today and accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow. We do this by supporting pioneering research with real-world benefits, including specialized health care through our Autism Treatment Network and innovative approaches for delivering autism services to underserved regions through our Global Autism Public Health initiative.

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Q:Can I or my child participate in research to help discover better treatments?

  A: Many opportunities are available for families to participate in autism research. You can join a clinical trial, enroll in a research study, contribute to our rich genetic database or participate online by adding your family information to a research database.

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About Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. Learn more at

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