Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are common neurodevelopmental disorders that occur along a broad continuum of severity with impairments in social interactions, communication and behaviour. This review highlights recent advances in autism research that shed light on the causes of the disorder and that have implications for clinical practice. It focuses on (1) the rising prevalence of ASD with attention given to recent epidemiological studies, (2) important genetic discoveries that may affect clinical evaluation of children with ASD, (3) active areas of research in cognitive neuroscience that seek to explain the underlying mechanisms of a complex disorder and (4) important studies on clinical populations with implications for screening and early identification of infants and toddlers with ASD.
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Funding: This work was funded through grants from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (T77MC00016; EBC), the Irving B Harris Foundation (EBC), the Autism Consortium (EBC and JMM), the National Institutes of Health (U19DC03610, U54MH66398, R21DC08637; HT-F) and Autism Speaks (HT-F).
Competing interests: None.