Autism is not a single disease but a group of a disorders that impact social and communication skills. It often appears early in life, causing children to fail to talk, point and play normally with others. It has genetic causes, but can also be triggered by prenatal conditions and environmental exposures. The most effective treatments tend to be rigorous behavioral programs, although drugs can help some symptoms. Autism spectrum disorders have become more common in recent decades, affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the United States alone.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders often have additional brain-based conditions that affect their learning and development. The recognition, understanding, and treatment of these related disorders is central to the mission of the UCSF Autism and Neurodevelopment Program.