Last updated June 2013
Autism is a condition which is usually diagnosed before a child is three. Autistic children have delayed speech or no speech at all, problems interacting socially, limited interests and odd or repetitive behaviors. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by abnormal brain development and functioning. Many children with autism also have an intellectual disability.
Finding the right treatment plan can be challenging because every child is unique and has different strengths and weaknesses. Often parents have their child tested for hearing problems because their child does not respond to conversation or commands. They may also show strange or difficult to manage behaviors. Early detection and getting the right educational, medical, behavioral, and supportive services can improve the functioning and long-term outlook of children with autism.
Choose a topic:
- What is autism?
- What are early signs of autism?
- What are some symptoms of autism that parents and caregivers can look for?
- What is the difference between autism and Asperger’s disorder?
- Are there treatments available for autism?
- Are there medication treatments for autism?
- Why do children with autism have difficulty learning in a regular classroom setting?
- What is the difference between autism and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD, NOS)?
Featured Expert Response to Frequently Asked Questions
When Should a Parent Consider Medication for their Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder?
FAQs for Families
DSM-5 Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
AACAP's Facts for Families were developed to provide concise and up-to-date information on issues that affect children, teenagers, and their families.
Considered resources for experts, mental health professional and physicians, AACAP's practice parameters were developed to guide clinical decision making. They show the best treatments and the range of treatment options available to families living with childhood and adolescent mental illness.(back to top)
DSM-5 and Autism: Kicking the Tires and Making the Grade
Bryan H. King, M.D., Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, M.D., and Catherine Lord, Ph.D.
JAACAP 2013 May;52(5) 454-457.
Early Behavioral Intervention Is Associated With Normalized Brain Activity in Young Children With Autism
Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., Emily J.H. Jones, Ph.D., Kristen Merkle, B.S., et. al.
JAACAP 2012 Nov;51(11) 1150-1159.
Are Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Different Manifestations of One Overarching Disorder? Cognitive and Symptom Evidence From a Clinical and Population-Based Sample
Jolanda M.J. van der Meer, M.Sc., Anoek M. Oerlemans, M.Sc., et. al.
JAACAP 2012 Nov;51(11) 1160-1172.
Research Units of Pediatric Psychopharmacology (RUPP) Autism Network Randomized Clinical Trial of Parent Training and Medication: One-Year Follow-Up
L. Eugene Arnold, M.D., M.Ed., Michael G. Aman, Ph.D., Xiaobai Li, Ph.D., et. al.
JAACAP 2012 Nov;51(11) 1173-1184.
Effects of Risperidone and Parent Training on Adaptive Functioning in Children With Pervasive Developmental Disorders and Serious Behavioral Problems
Lawrence Scahill, M.S.N., Ph.D., Christopher J. McDougle, M.D., et. al.
JAACAP 2012 Feb;51(2) 136-146.
Sensitivity and Specificity of Proposed DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder
James C. McPartland, Ph.D., Brian Reichow, Ph.D., Fred R. Volkmar, M.D.
JAACAP 2012 April;51(4) 363-383.
Written by members of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), the leading professional association in its field, Your Child is the most comprehensive, authoritative, and parent-friendly guide to a child's development.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Finder
Getting help is the most important thing that parents can do for children and adolescents with autism. Parents should try to find a mental health professional who has advanced training and experience with evaluating and treating children, adolescents, and families. It is important to find a comfortable match between your child, your family, and the mental health professional.
A child and adolescent psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and, treatment of disorders of thinking, feeling and behavior that affect children, adolescents, and their families. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have completed four years of medical school, at least three years of residency training in medicine, neurology, or general psychiatry with adults, and two years of additional training in psychiatric work with children, adolescents, and their families.
Click here to find a child and adolescent psychiatrist in your area.
Bear in mind that because of the extensive training required, there is a nationwide shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists. To learn more about other mental health professionals and places where families can find help, read Where to Find Help For Your Child.
Autism Society of America's Source Directory
Find local providers and services for families living with autism through the Autism Society of America's (ASA) source directory.
The ASA is the nation's leading grassroots autism organization and exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism.