What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are identified by “persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts; restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities; symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (typically recognized in the first two years of life); and symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.” The “spectrum” portion of the name refers to the ample range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability that people with ASD may experience. At this time, scientists don’t know what causes ASD. However, research does suggest that genes and environment both play very important roles. To learn more about how genes and environment may cause ASD, visit NIMH’s page on autism. As of 2010, clinical research has failed to show a link between autism and vaccines. If you’d like to learn more about the research on autism and vaccines, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

The early signs and symptoms of ASD may vary from child to child and adult to adult. In general, however, the signs and symptoms fall within two areas: (1) social impairment that includes difficulties with social communication and (2) repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. Parents are usually the first to notice that their children are not following the typical patterns of developing social and communication skills. Some children begin to develop the signs and symptoms of ASD before their first birthday, while others may begin developing them in their second or third year of life. Some of the signs and symptoms include: making little eye contact; failing to respond to or interact with other people; seldom seeking to share their enjoyment of toys or activities; responding inappropriately when others display anger, distress, or affection; sometimes fail to develop gestures; delayed communication skills; and/or developing repetitive motions or unusual behaviors that may be extreme and noticeable or that can be mild and discreet (may flap their arms or walk in a particular pattern). To learn more about the signs and symptoms of ASD, please visit NIMH.

We ran a search on the NIDRR Program Database and found several NIDRR funded projects that are conducting research dealing with autism. Here are just a few of them:

  • Facilitating Employment for Youth with Autism: A Replication Study of an Internship Model to Identify Evidence Based Practices. Project Number: H133A120140.
  • Do Animations Facilitate Symbol Understanding in Children with Autism? Project Number: H133G100187.
  • Virtual Environment for Social Information Processing (VESIP) Phase II. Project Number: H133A110048.
  • Examination of the Use of a Spanish Version of the Online and Applied System for Intervention Skills (OASIS) Training Program with Parents of Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Project Number: H133G110131.

We also ran a search in REHABDATA and found a large range of articles in our collection that deal with autism/ASD. Here are just a few of them:

  • Using therapeutic robots to teach students with autism in the classroom: Exploring research and innovation. NARIC Accession Number: J67950.
  • Effect of hippotherapy on motor control, adaptive behaviors, and participation in children with autism spectrum disorder. NARIC Accession Number: J67889.
  • Access to diagnosis and treatment services among Latino children with autism spectrum disorder. NARIC Accession Number: J66992.

If you would like to learn more about ASD, please visit NIMH and the CDC for more information. If you would like to obtain resources, please visit our Librarian’s Picks on ASD or contact one of our information specialists via phone (800/346-2742), chat, or email.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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