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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Overview

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ASD is a complex developmental disorder that affects how a person behaves, interacts with others, communicates, and learns. The NICHD is one of many federal agencies and NIH Institutes working to understand ASD. The NICHD supports and conducts research on what causes autism, how best to detect signs of autism, how best to treat autism and its symptoms, and other topics.

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Common Name

  • Autism

Medical or Scientific Names

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Many of the following terms have been used to describe autism. However, because of a change in the way ASD is classified, health care providers and scientists no longer use these terms. However, many people may still use the terms:

  • Asperger syndrome
  • Autistic disorder (“classic” autism)
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
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