What is autism spectrum disorder?

Autism is a neurobiological, lifelong developmental disorder, which means it is a disorder of the nervous system caused by genetic, metabolic, or other biological factors. Autism typically becomes apparent during a child's first three years; often within the first 12 to 18 months.

What causes autism?

There is no known cause. Many researchers believe autism is the result of a combination of environmental and genetic factors. However, autism research has increased over the past five years, and recent studies have shown promising links between such things as areas of the brain and autism. For a general overview of autism and theoretical causes, visit About Autism at the Autism Society of America.

What are the symptoms of autism?

Autism affects brain functioning, which interferes with the normal development of reasoning, behavior, social interaction and communication. Studies have shown that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly better outcomes. Some signs to look for include:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects

I suspect my child has autism. How do I arrange for an evaluation or assessment?

Schedule a diagnostic assessment at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism. For help finding diagnostic experts in your local area, check with your:

  • Pediatrician
  • Local children's hospital
  • County or state early intervention or developmental disabilities programs

Is there anyone in my area that provides services like the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism?

Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) or the Association of Behavioral Analysis can direct you to services in your area.

Are there criteria by which I can evaluate services in my area?

Contact the Organization for Autism Research at 703.351.5031