Autism spectrum is a general term for a group of complex brain development disorders, states Autism Speaks. These disorders have a series of similar traits, including repetitive behavior and difficulties with social interaction and communication. The term "spectrum" refers to the wide range of autistic traits individuals can have.
The autism spectrum is not a line on which an individual with autism can be plotted but rather a scope in which they fall. Autism is characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and interaction across multiple contexts and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests that may restrict an individual from progressing, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Autism spectrum disorders range from individuals who are mildly effected, only having a few social, emotional or sensory processing concerns, to those severely effected who struggle with cognitive, physical and severe emotional disorders, as outlined by Autism Speaks. Autism spectrum disorders include Asperger's syndrome.
The definite cause for autism spectrum disorders is unknown, but recent studies supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that autism is caused by a disturbance in early brain development before a baby is born. Autism spectrum disorders are estimated to effect 1 in 68 individuals in the United States. There is no cure for an autism spectrum disorder, but there are many cutting-edge therapies to help individuals with autism overcome their specific challenges.