NIH News Release
National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development

Monday, November 26, 2001

Robert Bock
(301) 496-5133

Autism Fact Sheets Now Available from NICHD

A series of fact sheets describing the latest research findings on autism is now available from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

"We have a strong responsibility to tell the public about the results of our intensive research programs," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the NICHD and co-chair of NIH's Autism Coordinating Committee. "These fact sheets will make NICHD's autism research much more accessible to those who need it."

At least one in 500 people are affected by some form of autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects early brain development, resulting in communication problems, difficulty with normal social interactions, and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behavior. Because these symptoms and behaviors can vary greatly among patients, doctors consider autism to be a "spectrum" disorder — a group of disorders with similar features. Although there is no cure for autism yet, educational, behavioral, and drug treatments have been designed to ease specific symptoms of the condition.

Current research findings suggest that autism has a strong hereditary component. Scientists suspect the disorder is the result of a complex interaction between several different genes involved with brain signaling and development. Unidentified environmental factors are also likely to play a role.

NICHD is currently supporting a range of research to better understand autism, its causes and potential treatments. Other institutes at the National Institutes of Health are also supporting autism research. These include: the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

"As research progresses, we want to keep the public informed of the latest autism information," said Laurence Stanford, Ph.D., a program officer with NICHD's Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Branch. "Because this material is being released as a series of smaller fact sheets rather than one large one, it can be readily updated as this fast-changing field moves forward."

There are six autism-related fact sheets available:

These fact sheets are available from the NICHD autism page at or may be ordered free of charge from the NICHD Clearinghouse:

Address: PO Box 3006, Rockville, MD 20847
Phone: 1-800-370-2943
Fax: 301-984-1473

Comments on the publications may be addressed to the NICHD Clearinghouse, listed above. E-mail correspondence to the Clearinghouse should list the word "Autism" in the subject line.