What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? | CDC

autism spectrum disorder (asd) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Some people with AD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition. other causes are not yet known. Scientists believe there are multiple causes of AD that work together to change the most common ways people develop. We still have a lot to learn about these causes and how they affect people with ADD.

People with ADD may behave, communicate, interact, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. often there is nothing in their appearance that differentiates them from other people. the abilities of people with add can vary significantly. For example, some people with ADD may have advanced conversation skills, while others may not speak at all. Some people with ADD need a lot of help in their daily lives. others may work and live with little or no support.

asd begins before the age of 3 and can last throughout a person’s life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children show symptoms of AD within the first 12 months of life. in others, symptoms may not appear until 24 months of age or older. Some children with ADD learn new skills and reach developmental milestones until around 18 to 24 months of age, and then stop learning new skills or lose skills they once had.

As children with ADD become adolescents and young adults, they may have difficulty developing and maintaining friendships, communicating with peers and adults, or understanding what behaviors are expected at school or at work. they may come to the attention of health care providers because they also have conditions such as anxiety, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which occur more often in people with ADD than in people without ADD.

signs and symptoms

People with ADD often have problems with communication and social interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. People with ADD may also have different ways of learning, moving, or paying attention. It is important to note that some people without ADD may also have some of these symptoms. For people with ADD, these characteristics can make life very challenging.

learn more about the signs and symptoms of tea »


Diagnosing ADD can be difficult since there is no medical test, such as a blood test, to diagnose the disorder. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months of age or earlier. at age 2 years, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered reliable.1 however, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until they are much older. some people are not diagnosed until they are teenagers or adults. This delay means that people with ADD may not get the early help they need.

more information on the detection and diagnosis of tea »


Current treatments for ADD seek to reduce symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and quality of life. ADD affects each person differently, which means that people with ADD have unique strengths and challenges and different treatment needs.2 Treatment plans typically involve multiple professionals and are tailored to each individual.

learn about the treatment of tea symptoms »

risk factors

there is no single cause of add. Many different factors have been identified that can make a child more likely to have AD, including environmental, biological, and genetic factors.

Although we know little about the specific causes, the available evidence suggests that the following may put children at higher risk of developing TBA:

  • having a brother with AD
  • have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile x syndrome or tuberous sclerosis
  • experiencing complications at birth
  • born to older parents
  • cdc is currently working on one of the largest in the us. uu. studies to date in asd. This study, called the Study to Explore Early Development (Seed), was designed to look at risk factors and behaviors related to tea. cdc is now conducting a follow-up study of older children who were enrolled in seed to determine the health, functioning, and needs of people with ADD and other developmental disabilities as they mature.

    how often does add occur

    The CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) has been estimating the number of 8-year-olds with ASD in the United States since 2000.

    asd occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. it is more than 4 times more common among boys than girls.

    Learn more about how the CDC calculates the number of children with ADD »

    if you are concerned

    As a parent, you already have what it takes to help your young child learn and grow. cdc has developed materials to help you track your child’s developmental milestones and share that progress, or any concerns, with your child’s doctor at every checkup.

    learn more about the cdc’s milestone checklists and other materials for parents »

    Contact your child’s doctor if you think your child might have ADD or if you have any other concerns about the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts.

    If you’re still concerned, ask the doctor to refer you to a specialist who can do a more in-depth evaluation of your child. Specialists who can do a more in-depth evaluation and diagnosis include

    • developmental pediatricians (doctors who have special training in child development and children with special needs)
    • child neurologists (doctors who work on the brain, spine, and nerves)
    • psychologists or child psychiatrists (doctors who understand the human mind)
    • at the same time, call your state’s public early childhood system to request a free evaluation, sometimes called a child find evaluation, to find out if your child qualifies for intervention services. You do not need to wait for a doctor’s referral or medical diagnosis to make this call.

      where to call for a free evaluation from the state depends on your child’s age:

      • If your child is not yet 3 years old, contact your local early intervention system.
        • You can find the appropriate contact information for your state by calling the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) at 919-962-2001.
        • or visit the ecta ​​website. external icon
        • If your child is 3 years old or older, contact your local public school system.
          • Even if your child is not yet old enough to go to kindergarten or is not enrolled in public school, call your local elementary school or board of education and ask to speak to someone who can help. to evaluate your child.
          • if you are not sure who to contact, call the ecta ​​at 919-962-2001.
          • or visit the ecta ​​website. external icon
          • Research shows that early intervention services can greatly improve a child’s development.3,4 To ensure that your child reaches his or her full potential, it is very important to receive services as soon as possible.


            1. lord c, risi s, dilavore ps, shulman c, thurm a, pickles a. autism from 2 to 9 years of age. psychiatry arch gene. 2006 Jun;63(6):694-701.
            2. hyman, s.l., levy, s.e., myers, s.m., & aap council on children with disabilities, section on developmental and behavioral pediatrics. (2020). identification, evaluation and management of children with autism spectrum disorder. pediatrics, 145(1), e20193447.
            3. handleman, j.s., harris, s., eds. Preschool education programs for children with autism (2nd ed.). austin, tx: pro-ed. 2000.
            4. national research council. educate children with autism. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001.
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