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Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a condition that affects how a person perceives the world, processes information and interacts with others. Signs usually appear by age 2 or 3.

Autism includes many symptoms and challenges, varying greatly from one individual to another. Not all people with autism show all signs. This is why it is a “spectrum.”

Signs of Autism

  • Difficulties in social communication (such as poor eye contact, little or no response to name, little or no gestures such as pointing or waving, repeating words or phrases)
  • Repetitive behaviors (such as hand flapping, rocking, spinning)
  • Intense interest in specific topics or objects
  • Unusual and intense reactions to sight, sound, taste, smell, touch and pain

Autism is usually diagnosed in young children. Because the condition is on a spectrum (wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms), people with ASD have different abilities and need different levels of support. Early intervention and tailored support can significantly improve long-term quality of life.

If parents are concerned that their child may have ASD, they should schedule an appointment with their child’s primary care provider.

Causes & Risk Factors of Autism

According to the National Institutes of Health, scientists don’t know the main causes of ASD. But studies suggest both genetic and environmental factors may play a role. People may be more likely to develop autism if they have:

  • A sibling with ASD
  • Older parents
  • Certain genetic conditions (such as Down syndrome or fragile X syndrome)
  • Problems during the mother’s pregnancy (such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia)
  • A very low birth weight

Importantly, there is no association between vaccines and ASD.

Autism in Texas

At least 250,000 state residents have autism, according to a 2019 report by the Texas Autism Council. About 1% of children have ASD. Although more children were diagnosed since the late 1990s, this is due to increased awareness, earlier detection and better understanding of the diagnosis. There is no “autism epidemic.”

University Health Resources

University Health Pediatric Primary Care

University Health pediatric primary care providers screen for autism and then consult specialists for a diagnostic evaluation.

University Health Developmental Pediatrics Clinic

A consultation is required to make an appointment at the University Health Developmental Pediatrics Clinic. These providers specialize in evaluating, diagnosing and treating developmental conditions in children such as:

  • ASD
  • Intellectual disability
  • Sleep disorders
  • Pediatric feeding disorder

Community Resources

Any Baby Can's Autism Services Program

Any Baby Can's Autism Services Program in San Antonio is for families raising a child or youth diagnosed with ASD. Parents get education and support through a variety of services, such as parent training and education groups.

Autism Community Network

Autism Community Network is a nonprofit agency serving Bexar and surrounding counties. Its mission is to maximize the potential of children with autism by providing early diagnosis for those with limited access and educating and empowering the community to support them.

Autism Treatment Center of San Antonio

The mission of the Autism Treatment Center is to assist people with autism and related disorders throughout their lives as they learn, play, work and live in the community.

Institute for Autism and Related Disorders

Several programs work under this institute at Texas A&M University – San Antonio. View all programs and resources for individuals and families affected by autism.

Morgan’s Multi-Assistance Center

Morgan’s Multi-Assistance Center in San Antonio connects people with disabilities and their families to community services.

Vela Families of Austin

Vela Families of Austin aims to create a community where all families of children with disabilities thrive. They offer free in person and virtual programs in English and Spanish

Autism Speaks®

Autism Speaks is a national nonprofit agency dedicated to creating an inclusive world for all individuals with autism throughout their lifespan. They provide free resources.

Explore More Resources

Find community resources like food, housing and mental health services close to home.