It's Your Health
Help on accessing alternative formats, such as Portable Document Format (PDF), Microsoft Word and PowerPoint (PPT) files, can be obtained in the alternate format help section.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a term used to describe a group of developmental disorders that include:
Most people with ASD have trouble with social interaction and communication. They may also have unusual interests, activities, and behaviours.
Researchers are working to find answers about the causes and most effective treatments for ASD, but there is still much that is unknown.
Because signs of ASD become noticeable in early childhood, parents are often the first to notice signs of the condition. Approximately one in every 150-160 children has autism spectrum disorder. Signs of autism are usually detected in early childhood, and boys are four times more likely to have the condition than girls.
Autism affects the way the brain develops, causing the individual to have difficulty with communication and social interaction, and unusual patterns of behaviour, activities and interests. "Symptoms" or disabilities caused by ASDs can vary from very mild in one person and quite severe in another.
People affected by ASD almost always have:
Possible signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders:
ASD develops differently in every individual. There is no such thing as a typical autism disorder. Symptoms vary and can range from mild to severe.
Although the exact cause of ASD is unknown, there is strong evidence that genetics may play a role. Other possible causes include:
ASD is not:
A team of health professionals will use various standardized tests to make the diagnosis.
These are lifelong conditions that have significant impacts on families. While there is no cure for ASD, many children benefit from early diagnosis and treatment.
While research continues on prevention and causes of ASD, early diagnosis and treatment can benefit children. If you see signs of ASD in a family member, talk to your health care provider.
If a family member is diagnosed with ASD, learning about the condition can help you prepare forŚand cope withŚthe challenges ahead.
Health Canada works with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to co-ordinate ASD research and surveillance. Health Canada also supports Canada's capacity to address autism through efforts to enhance awareness and knowledge about this condition. Federal activities include:
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-267-1245*
Updated: October 2012
Original: December 2009
©Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Health, 2012