What is Autism?

"Autism" is more commonly called "Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)," because we find a range of differences in people. ASD is a developmental disability that is caused by differences in the way the brain functions.

Individuals with ASD have trouble in three specific areas:

  1. social interactions,
  2. communication, and
  3. restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior.

Some children may have trouble in two of the three areas, but not all three. This results in having "features of autism,” but not the full diagnosis of ASD. Please see below for additional information about these features.

It's important to remember that...

  1. Not everyone with a genetic change that we research has a diagnosis of Autism. In fact, most people will not be diagnosed with autism, however, many people with the genetic changes we are learning more about may have had one or more of the behavioral features mentioned above and described in more detail below.
  2. Even if a person does have Autism, most will not exhibit all of these features. Every person is unique and cannot be defined by one single genetic change. We are a combination of ALL of our genes -- and that is what makes us each unique.
  3. Most of these characteristics can be identified in children and adults with ADHD, not just individuals with Autism.

People who have genetic changes (like the ones we are studying and learning more about) may have one or more of the following behavioral features detailed in the following sections: (Information obtained from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html)

 

If you'd like to learn more about the features autism and other research being done, visit The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative website for more information.