5 Fast Facts About Autism

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN on April 10, 2021
  • Teenage Caucasian boy with autism spectrum disorder standing in tree-shaded park
    More than 3.5 million Americans live with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
    Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common developmental disorder that affects communication, socialization and behavior. It includes what used to be called Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder. The symptoms of ASD can range from mild to severe; some people with ASD require significant assistance in their daily lives, while others function independently. Because ASD encompasses such a wide range of behavior and outcomes, it is commonly misunderstood. Get accurate autism information with these five fast facts about ASD, including early autism symptoms, possible autism causes, and the latest autism treatment options.
  • Young toddler boy with curly hair looking at bubbles floating in front of him
    1. Autism symptoms often show up before age 2.
    ASD symptoms include minimal or inconsistent eye contact, delayed verbal communication, difficulty adapting to changes in routine, indifference to other people, repetitive behaviors, persistent fascination with particular objects, and difficulty responding to nonverbal cues. Nearly 80 to 90% of parents of children with ASD noticed symptoms prior to their child’s second birthday, according to the Centers for Disease Control. One-third to half of parents noticed symptoms by the time their children turned one.
  • Indian American mother and young son with autism spectrum disorder in front of birthday cake candles
    2. ASD may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
    No one knows exactly what causes ASD. Scientists know that people who have a sibling or parent with ASD are more likely than other people to develop symptoms of ASD, and they’ve noticed ASD occurs more often in people who have certain genetic conditions, including Fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis. These facts strongly suggest a genetic component to ASD. Researchers are working to determine which genes increase the risk of ASD. They are also trying to understand the role environmental factors (such as parental age, pregnancy and birth complications, or prenatal exposure to chemicals) play in the development of ASD.
  • Middle aged Caucasian man with autism spectrum disorder painting in art studio
    3. Autism is a lifelong condition.
    There is no cure for ASD. Autism is a neurological and developmental disorder that persists throughout the lifespan. With treatment, most people with ASD notice an improvement in symptoms, and many people learn strategies to help them communicate and socialize more effectively. Early intervention is usually associated with improved outcomes, but it’s difficult to predict the outcome for any individual with autism. Some people with ASD live independently; others require full-time assistance.
  • Young Hispanic boy in floor therapy session with counselor
    4. ASD treatment options include applied behavior analysis.
    There is no one standard treatment for ASD. Healthcare providers may prescribe medication to help control symptoms, such as hyperactivity, anxiety, depression and irritability. Behavioral therapy, including a technique called applied behavior analysis, helps people with ASD (and their families) develop communication and socialization skills. Many people with ASD also benefit from speech therapy, occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy, and special education services. Some people say special diets and nutritional supplements can improve ASD symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider before trying a new diet, supplement or treatment.
  • Young Caucasian mother and father smiling with toddler and baby
    5. The experience of autism varies from family to family.
    A popular saying among people who live and work with people with ASD is, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” This saying underscores the fact that ASD encompasses a wide variety of behaviors and abilities. Additionally, a family’s experience with ASD evolves over time, as the person with ASD grows and develops and the family learns more about the condition and how to support their loved one. Healthcare providers can help families connect to community resources.
Autism Information | Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms & Causes

About The Author

Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN is a Registered Nurse-turned-writer. She’s also the creator of BuildingBoys.net and co-creator/co-host of the podcast On Boys: Real Talk about Parenting, Teaching & Reaching Tomorrow’s Men. Most recently, she is the author ofThe First-Time Mom's Guide to Raising Boys: Practical Advice for Your Son's Formative Years.
  1. Facts and Statistics. Autism Society. http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/facts-and-statistics/
  2. Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
  3. Autism Spectrum Disorder. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/autismspectrumdisorder.html
  4. What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html
  5. What are the Symptoms of Autism? Autism Speaks. https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-are-symptoms-autism
  6. Autism Spectrum Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/autism-spectrum-disorder/index.shtml
  7. Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html
  8. Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/treatment.html
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Last Review Date: 2021 Apr 10
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.