Current facts and links for more information about autism spectrum disorders.

About Autism

 Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears in the first three years of life. Autism is the third most common developmental disability in the U.S. affecting an estimated 400,000 people. It occurs in approximately 1 of every 50 individuals and is four times more prevalent in boys than girls.

Autism is a spectrum disorder. In the autistic child, communications and social interactions are severely impaired. Unable to learn from the natural environment as most children do, the child with autism generally shows little interest in the world or people around him. Some children with autism acquire advanced skills, but most exhibit a wide range of behavioral problems. In reality, autism affects the way a person comprehends, communicates and relates to others.

Autism was originally thought to be primarily a psychiatric condition. However, further investigation showed that genetic and environmental factors are implicated in the pathogenesis of autism. The effects of environmental factors such as infections and toxic chemicals on gene expression result in biochemical, immunological and neurological disorders found in children with autism.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network reported that approximately 1 in 88 children in the United States has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. This represents an increase in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders compared to earlier in the decade when prevalence was cited as 1 in 110 and 1 in 166. In the 1980’s autism prevalence was reported as 1 in 10,000. In the nineties, prevalence was 1 in 2500 and later 1 in 1000. It is problematic to compare autism rates over the last three decades, as the diagnostic criteria for autism have changed with each revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). In 1983 the DSM did not recognize PDD-NOS or Asperger's syndrome, and the criteria for autistic disorder (AD) were more restrictive.
ASDs are almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 54) than among girls (1 in 252) and they are reported in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Studies have been conducted in several continents (Asia, Europe, and North America) that report a prevalence rate of approximately 1 percent. A 2011 study reported a 2.6 percent prevalence of autism in South Korea.
  •  1 in 50 children in the United States has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  •  1 in 31 boys ( 5 times more common in boys than girls)
  •  1 in 252 girls
  • Reported in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a complex set of neurological disorders that severely impair social, communicative and cognitive functions.
  • Individuals with ASD may have cognitive impairments, though some have typical or above average IQs. 
  • Typical ASD behaviors include stereotyped actions (hand flapping, body rocking), insistence on sameness, resistance to change and, in some cases, aggression or self-injury.
  • Between 30-50% of people with autism have seizures.
  • The cost of providing care for a person with autism in the U.S. is an estimated $1.4 million over their lifetime, according to a study funded by advocacy group Autism Speaks.
  •  For those with autism who are impacted with intellectual disabilities (with an IQ of 70 or less) -- nearly half of the autistic population -- the cost jumps to $2.3 million.
  • On average autism costs a family $60,000 a year

If You are Concerned - Learn the Signs Act Early

NIMH Parent's Guide to Autism

Living with Autism 

Welcome to the Autistic Community 


Autism Spectrum Disorders : 24 Warning Signs