Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, affects around 1 in 100 Australians. People with autism can find they have difficulties with communication and social interactions. There is no evidence that it is caused by food or any other substances.
The autism spectrum
This is a developmental problem, which means that the brain does not develop the same way it does in most people. Autism is not a mental health problem or an intellectual disability, although some people with autism will also have those problems.
Symptoms of autism
People with autism can be affected in lots of different ways, and each person is different. They may have trouble communicating or interacting with other people. They might prefer routine to change. They might have ideas or behaviours that are repeated. Or they might be very sensitive to things that they smell, hear, see, touch or taste.
These issues might be very severe, or they may be very minor. They might show up in children, or they might not be obvious until later in life.
Causes of autism
Autism is caused by the way that the brain develops. If someone in your family has autism, it is more likely that other people in the family will also have autism or an autism spectrum disorder.
There is no evidence that autism can be caused by vaccinations, foods or other lifestyle factors.
Mental health and autism
Autism is not a mental illness. But people with autism have higher rates of mental illness such as depression and anxiety than others. It can be very difficult to tell if someone with autism also has a mental illness, because they may have trouble communicating how they feel.
Last reviewed: June 2016