May Institute
  • Topic Search:

Get the Facts About Autism Spectrum Disorder
Categories: ASD and DD, Child-focused

By Erica Kearney, M.A., BCBA

What is ASD?
ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social interactions and social communication and by restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.
How many children have ASD?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one in 68 children in the United States has an ASD (2014). This number is about 30 percent higher than the CDC’s 2012 estimate of one in 88 children.
How common is ASD?
Autism spectrum disorder is more common in children than cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS. Autism occurs in all races, ethnicities, and social groups. It is five times more common in boys than in girls.
Do we know what causes autism?
Although a specific cause of autism is not known, current research links autism to biological or neurological differences in the brain. Autism is believed to have a genetic basis, although no specific gene has been directly linked to the disorder. We do know that autism is NOT caused by vaccinations. 
How is ASD diagnosed?
According to the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), ASD is diagnosed when a person exhibits three “persistent deficits” in social communication and social interaction, and at least two repetitive behaviors.
At what age should a child be screened for ASD?  
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend that all children be screened ASD at 18 months and again at 24 months. However, individuals of any age can be screened for ASD.
What are the benefits of an early diagnosis?
The earlier a child with ASD is diagnosed, the better the long-term outcome. Studies show that early diagnosis and intervention during the first years of a child’s life can significantly impact his or her long-term prognosis, particularly in the areas of language and social behavior.
Are there autism treatments that work?
Yes! In its recently released National Standards Report, Phase 2, the National Autism Center identified 14 established treatments that produce beneficial outcomes effective for children and adolescents on the spectrum, and one for adults.
You can download a free copy of the report at

Erica Kearney, M.A., BCBA, is Executive Director of the May Center School for Children with Autism and Developmental Disabilities in West Springfield, Mass. She can be contacted at