An official website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
This page, Understanding Autism, is offered by

Understanding Autism

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder, which can and does impact individuals very differently, and no two individuals are the same. Individuals with ASD present with a wide range of strengths, skills, and challenges. Some may be highly verbal, have extensive vocabularies and also may have a very high IQ, while others may be non-verbal, have significant interfering behaviors and also have an intellectual impairment. ASD is characterized by problems with social communication, unusual behaviors such as fixed interests, being inflexible with changes to schedules and routines, having repetitive physical behaviors (such as hand flapping or rocking), or abnormal responses to sensations (oversensitivity or under-sensitivity to lights, sounds, or touch). Communication challenges include difficulty understanding and responding to social cues and nonverbal communication such as gestures and tone of voice, which can impact making or keeping friends. Although people with ASD may want to make friends, difficulties in understanding social norms or correctly interpreting body language and facial expressions can interfere with developing relationships.