Autism can be caused by a number of factors, but the cause in the vast majority is not known. It is known that autism is caused by biological, not psychological, factors.
Typical characteristics of autism are often described as:
Public Law 101-476, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), formerly the Education of the Handicapped Act, now includes autism as a separate disability category. Children with autism will be eligible for special education and related services under this new category.
Until recently, children with autism have been eligible for special education and related services under the category of "other health impaired." The regulations (CFR 300.5) to the Education of the Handicapped Act state, "Other health impaired means (i) having an autistic condition which is manifested by severe communication and other developmental and educational problems...". These regulations will be changed to reflect autism as a category included under the IDEA.
Emphasis in education needs to be on helping the child to learn ways to communicate and on structuring the environment so that it is consistent and predictable. Effective teaching includes attention to behavior plans, positive behavior management, and clear expectations and rules.
Many of these methods can be developed in conjunction with parents and followed through at home. Continuity and consistency between home and school environments can greatly aid in the security and progress of persons with autism.
While autism is a lifetime condition, with special training, supervision, and support, many adults with autism can live and work in the community.
Powers, Michael D. (Ed.). (1989). Children with Autism, A Parent's Guide. Rockville, MD; Woodbine House.
Wing, L., M.D., (1980). Autistic Children: A Guide for Parents and Professionals. Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press.
This fact sheet was developed by Interstate Research Associates, Inc. pursuant to Cooperative Agreement #H030A00002 with the Office of Special Education Programs. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U. S. Government.
This information is in the public domain unless otherwise indicated. Readers are encouraged to copy and share it, but please credit the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY).