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5 facts about autism

A smiling man looks out a window.

April 20, 2021—It's Autism Acceptance Month—an occasion dedicated to embracing neurodiversity in autistic people of all ages. It's a good opportunity to learn more about autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Here are five key facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts:

1. Autism isn't the same for everyone. The term ASD covers a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Some autistic people have many challenges and support needs, while others have very few. This wide variation in skills and support needs is why, instead of using separate terms like autistic disorder or Asperger's syndrome, autism is now called a spectrum disorder.

2. Genetics play a role. Certain genetic disorders are associated with a greater risk for ASD and may account for more than 20% of autism cases, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Scientists also think that things in a person's environment might make them more likely to have ASD, but we don't know what those factors are yet.

We do know that:

  • Autism is not caused by how parents raise their kids.
  • Vaccines do not cause autism—many studies have found no link. That's a vaccine myth.

3. It's four times more common in boys than in girls. But autistic people belong to all races, ethnicities and social backgrounds. Around 1 in 68 children is autistic.

4. Early intervention is important. ASD is often detected by age 2, though it's sometimes found earlier or much later. The earlier ASD is found, the earlier kids can be offered services, such as those that help teach social and language skills. Such early interventions can help autistic people in many ways. Because of this, parents should talk to a healthcare provider if they think their child may have behaviors or developmental signs of ASD. Learn more about autism's early signs.

5. Autistic people can be successful and independent. Autism is a lifelong disability. But autistic children can do well in school. And many autistic adults work and live successfully on their own. Autistic people may need different levels of support from families, healthcare providers and others. But there's no reason an autistic person can't have a happy, fulfilling life.

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