Autism is a spectrum of complex brain disorders. The disorders result in social, behavioral, and communication problems. Other conditions that are part of this spectrum include Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. This means that problems in brain development cause autism. Scientists are searching for answers about what causes these development problems. Studies suggest:

  • Autism seems to run in some families. Several genes may be involved.
  • Problems during pregnancy or delivery may interfere with normal brain development.
  • Something in the environment that a child is exposed to may be a factor.