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Autism is a brain disorder that affects a person's ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the external world. People with the condition often exhibit repetitive behavior or narrow, obsessive interests. Other characteristics of autism include problems with verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction. Scientists aren't certain what causes the disorder, but it's likely that both genetics and environment play a role.

What Is Autism?

Autism is a brain disorder that too often results in a lifetime of impaired thinking, feeling, and social functioning -- our most uniquely human attributes. It typically affects a person's ability to communicate, form relationships with others, and respond appropriately to the external world. The disorder becomes apparent in children generally by the age of 3.
 
Autism (sometimes called "classical autism") is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders.
 
Other autism spectrum disorders include:
 
Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have autism. Males are four times more likely to have it than females. Girls with autism tend to have more severe symptoms and greater cognitive impairment.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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