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Autism Spectrum Disorder

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

ASD is a range of developmental conditions that can make social interaction and communication challenging. Spectrum means signs and symptoms can vary from one child to another and range from mild to severe. ASD includes autism disorder, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably with ASD.

What are the signs and symptoms of ASD?

The main signs and symptoms are social interaction problems and repeated behaviors. These prevent your child from functioning easily in social settings, such as school. Signs and symptoms are usually noticed during the early developmental period, often by 3 years. Your child may not reach expected milestones. He or she may reach milestones but then lose skills that were gained. ASD sometimes becomes noticeable later, when children need to interact with others at school. You may notice any of the following about your child, depending on the kind of ASD:

How is ASD diagnosed?

Tell your child's healthcare provider if your child has a family history of ASD. Your child will be checked for other conditions that may look like ASD or occur with it. Some examples are anxiety, depression, and ADHD. If tests rule out other causes, the following can help diagnose ASD:

How is ASD managed?

Your child's healthcare provider may talk to you about levels of support for your child. This is based on challenges your child has with social skills, communication, and repeated behaviors. The level of support ranges from 1 to 3. Level 3 is the most support needed.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I help support my child?

Your child may have trouble sleeping. He or she may not want to eat healthy foods. This can lead to weight control problems, such as obesity. Your child may feel anxious or often have stomach pain or diarrhea. He or she may have attention problems such as ADD or ADHD. Your child may wander and leave the house without being noticed. The following can help you support your child and keep him or her safe and healthy:

Where can I find support or more information?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my child's doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder

Treatment options

Care guides

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.