What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong neurological condition rooted in very early brain development, characterized by social and communication challenges as well as repetitive behaviors and interests. Many people on the autism spectrum also experience mental health conditions and physical health issues. Families and other caregivers endure emotional and financial pressures related to care and treatment.


How common is autism?

The current estimate of prevalence in Canada is 1 in 66, according to The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Drawing from the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System (NASS), PHAC recently announced that among 5-17 year olds, 15.2 children and youth per 1,000 were diagnosed with autism in 2015. Data gathered through the NASS has also revealed the number of diagnosed children and youth varies between provinces and territories  – from 1 in 126 to 1 in 57.


What are the known causes of autism?

The causes of ASD are still unknown. Interactions between genes and the environment are considered one of the primary reasons for early changes in the brain associated with autism.


How can I tell if a child has autism?

No two children with autism are the same. Each individual is unique, and levels of ability will differ. Common signs that a child may have autism include challenges with social skills, difficulty in verbal communication, repetitive behaviours and reliance on routine.

Early symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Failure to bond
  • Not interested in playing with other children
  • Difficulty developing language skills
  • Difficult to console during tantrums


What should I do if I see these signs in my child?

Don’t wait–talk to your doctor about getting your child screened for autism. Our research shows that children as young as six months of age may show signs of ASD, so recognizing early signs and knowing developmental milestones is important. Early intervention can change outcomes.


Our focus in ASD

Researchers funded by Kids Brain Health Network are helping to make early diagnosis possible, sometimes as early as six months of age, as well as evaluating promising treatments and ways to support families raising children and youth with autism.

  • Genomic and Epigenetic influences on development and symptoms of ASD
  • Early Detection Research
  • Social Communication and Resiliency
  • Youth Perspectives


How can I participate in KBHN’s autism research?

If you are interested in learning more about our research projects and/or becoming a research participant, visit our Participate page to learn more.