Autism spectrum disorder has attracted intense interest from the public and scientists over recent years. Nature sorts fact from fiction in this hot, but sometimes contentious, field: from the debate about soaring diagnoses, to the idea that scientists and engineers are at high risk of having a child with autism. The special includes news and comment from Nature, and articles from Nature Medicine, Nature Neuroscience and Nature Reviews NeuroscienceImage Credit: Loannes Baptista, Wikimedia Commons