Wikipedia Precis

This revision: 10th May 2013 .
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Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. The diagnostic criteria require that symptoms become apparent before a child is three years old.[2] Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood.[3]

It is one of three recognized disorders in the autism spectrum (ASDs), the other two being Asperger syndrome, which lacks delays in cognitive development and language, and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (commonly abbreviated as PDD-NOS), which is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met.[4]

Autism has a strong genetic basis, although the genetics of autism are complex and it is unclear whether ASD is explained more by rare mutations, or by rare combinations of common genetic variants.[5] In rare cases, autism is strongly associated with agents that cause birth defects.[6] Controversies surround other proposed environmental causes, such as heavy metals, pesticides or childhood vaccines;[7] the vaccine hypotheses are biologically implausible and lack convincing scientific evidence.[8]

The prevalence of autism is about 1-2 per 1,000 people worldwide, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report 11 per 1,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with ASD as of 2008.[7][9][10] The number of people diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically since the 1980s, partly due to changes in diagnostic practice; the question of whether actual prevalence has increased is unresolved.[11]

Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child's life.[12] The signs usually develop gradually, but some autistic children first develop more normally and then regress.[13] Early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help autistic children gain self-care, social, and communication skills.[12]

Although there is no known cure,[12] there have been reported cases of children who recovered.[14] Not many children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, though some become successful.[15] An autistic culture has developed, with some individuals seeking a cure and others believing autism should be accepted as a difference and not treated as a disorder.[16]

Useful Links

Cognitive Neuroscience of Autism

Research review by Simon Baron-Cohen


Changes to ASD sub types and diagnostic criteria. US publication, but most countries including UK have referenced DSM-IV historically

Molecular Autism

Open access clinical Journal from Simon Baron-Cohen and Joseph Buxbaum


Autism diagnosis in children and young people - clinical guidance

ARC Tests and Research Tools

Excellent (non-diagnostic) autism tests from Frith, Baron-Cohen & ilk. Very useful for CPD, research etc

NHS ASD Guidance

NHS Choices Portal on Autism and ASD

National Autistic Society

The NAS provide training, support, assessment and other services throughout the UK.

BBC Links on Autism

BBC Science on Autism

Autism Society of America

American resource site on all aspects of Autism run by the largest Autism organisation in the US.


The ARC is the UK's world-leading autism research centre. Several dozens of papers are available for download via the publications section.

Yale Autism Program

The Autism Program at Yale is an interdisciplinary group of clinicians and scholars.

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin is a noteworthy author and speaker with Asperger's Syndrome.

Literature/Research Review

Separating fact from fiction - old paper but still prescient

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