Autism Resource Center

This Resource Center was made possible by a grant from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry's Campaign for America's Kids (CFAK).

Last updated December 2023


Autism Resource Center Image

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:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is autism?
  2. What are early signs of autism?
  3. What are some symptoms of autism that parents and caregivers can look for?
  4. What is the difference between autism and Asperger’s disorder?
  5. Are there treatments available for autism?
  6. Are there medication treatments for autism?
  7. Why do children with autism have difficulty learning in a regular classroom setting?
  8. 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: Autism and DSM-5

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Facts for Families

AACAP's Facts for Families were developed to provide concise and up-to-date information on issues that affect children, teenagers, and their families.

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Video Clips

For Professionals

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
This video was made by the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Autism - What we know (and what we don't know yet)
This video, presented by the geneticist Wendy Chung MD, PhD, is useful for mental health professionals and parents who are interested in hearing a brief summary about the genetic and environmental factors that may predispose to autism spectrum disorder.

For Families

Autism - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology
This video is appropriate for parents and caregivers and describes the characteristics of autism spectrum disorder.

Sesame Street: Meet Julia
This Sesame Street video is helpful for parents or caregivers to watch with their children who may be interacting with children with autism. Here, we meet Julia, a character with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Through the interaction of the characters with Julia, children can learn about symptoms of autism. Especially important for children is the delicate yet straightforward discussion of differences in social behavior that they may encounter when meeting a child with autism.

Marvelous Max - Autism Awareness for Kids
This animated video for school-aged children and their parents explains how Max, a child with autism spectrum disorder, behaves differently from other children in a social setting at school and describes the different educational needs of children with autism.

For Teenagers

A Teen's Guide to Autism
This video is useful for teens and parents to learn about how people with autism spectrum disorder may behave and express themselves differently from others. Narrated by a teenager, the video helps teens to understand what their peers with autism spectrum disorder may be experiencing, with the goal of building empathy and preventing social isolation.

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Clinical Resources

Practice Parameters

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.

Additional Clinical Resources

Autism Resource Center Image
AACAP Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disability Resources 

Developed by the Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disability Resource Committee to serve as a resource for AACAP members on preventive work, treatment of and rehabilitation for children and adolescents with an intellectual disability.

Neurodevelopmental Clinical Pearls Pocket Guide (PDF)

Authors: The training and education working group: Kathleen A. Koth, DO, M. Frampton Gwynette, MD, Lauren Nagy, MD, Rebecca Muhle, MD, PhD, Pankhuree Vandana, MD, Natasha Marrus, MD, PhD, Jessica A. Hellings, MB.BCh., M.Med.Psych (SA), M. Pilar Trelles, MD, Narpindar Malhi, MD, Ronke L. Babalola, MD, MPH


Parents’ Medication Guide

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) created the Parents’ Medication Guide series.
Included in these guides are new research on effective treatments for child and adolescent ASD. The goal of the guide is to help parents make informed decisions about getting the best care for a child or adolescent with ASD.

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Research and Training

For Professionals

Aggression in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Presentation and Treatment Options
Fitzpatrick et al., 2016. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
This article reviews both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments for irritability and aggression in ASDs. the article provides an overview of important considerations in the evaluation of aggressive behaviors and discusses various treatment modalities used to for irritability and aggression in ASD.

A Systematic Review of Treatments for Anxiety in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Vasa et al., 2016. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
This article reviews both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatment methods for anxiety in ASDs. This article emphasizes which types of anxiety diagnoses were targeted in the reviewed studies and whether certain types of symptoms of anxiety were more responsive to particular therapies.

Efficacy of Group Social Skills Interventions for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Gates et al., 2017. Clinical Psychology Review
This article reviews various randomized-controlled trials regarding the efficacy of group-based social skills interventions in youth with ASDs. The interventions are examined across various domains, including home and school, using multiple methods of measurement ranging from teacher, parent, and self-report to task-based measures.

A Systematic Review of Peer-Mediated Interventions for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Chang and Locke, 2016. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders
This article reviews recent studies of peer-meditated interventions targeted at increasing the social skills of youth with ASDs. The study highlights the efficacy of these methods as well as points out the need for further study of this intervention type.

The Relationship Between Sleep Problems, Neurobiological Alterations, Core Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Psychiatric Comorbidities
Mazzonne et al., 2018. Journal of Clinical Medicine
This article reviews the relationship between ASD and various sleep disorders with which it is associated. Various theories about the etiology of sleep disorders in ASD and the casual relationship between the two are discussed.

Parenting Adolescents With ASD: A Multimethod Study
Van Esch et al., 2018. Autism Research
This study examines the behavior of mothers as they interact with their child during two tasks to evaluate parenting behavior in parents of autistic versus typically-developing children. Mothers in the ASD group were found to exhibit higher "Sensitivity and timing" and "Creativity" scores during the tasks and reported adapting the environment for their child to a greater degree than control group mothers.

Parental First Concerns and Timing of Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis
Becerra-Culqui et al., 2018. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
This study evaluated parentally-reported first concerns about their child's development to identify which concerns were associated with an early (<3 years of age) versus late (>3 years of age) autism diagnosis. The study found that first concerns about delays in pointing and gesturing, response to own name, babbling and speaking, and poor eye contact were associated with an early diagnosis.

Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Monolingual vs Bilingual Homes: A Scoping Review
Wang et al., 2018. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
This is a review study with the goal of evaluating cognitive, linguistic, and behavioral outcomes in patients with ASD raised in monolingual or bilingual homes. The review finds no differences between ASD patients raised in monolingual versus bilingual homes with regards to core symptoms, cognitive, or linguistic outcomes.

For Families and Transitional Age Youth

Autism and the University Experience: Marratives from Students with Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Bolourian et al., 2018. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
This study investigates the postsecondary school experiences of individuals with ASD and compares their experiences to individuals with ADHD through interviews about their experiences. This study provides direct insight into the experiences of individuals with ASD as they navigate more complex social environments more independently.

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AACAP's publications, Your Child and Your Adolescent, offer accessible, comprehensive information about the emotional development and behavior of children from infancy through the teenage years.

Look Me in the Eye
John Elder Robinson

I Am Utterly Unique
Elaine Marie Larson

Little Rainman
Karen L. Simmons

Nobody Nowhere
Donna William

A Special Book About Me
Josie Santomauro

What it is to be me! An Asperger Kid Book
Angela Wine

Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome: A user guide to Adolescense
Luke Jackson

For more bibliotherapy resources, visit Living with Mental Illness: Books, Stories and Memoirs.

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Getting Help

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.

Autism Resource ImageBear 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 families can find help, read 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.

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Other Links

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