Autism is one of a group of serious developmental problems called autism spectrum disorders that appear in early childhood — usually before age 3. Though symptoms and severity vary, all autism spectrum disorders affect a child's ability to communicate and interact with others.

The number of children diagnosed with autism appears to be rising. It's not clear whether this is due to better detection and reporting of autism or a real increase in the number of cases or both.

While there is no cure for autism, intensive, early treatment can make a big difference in the lives of many children with the disorder.

Oct. 06, 2012