Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are common heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorders with typical triad of symptoms: impaired social interaction, language and communication abnormalities and stereotypical behavior. Despite extensive research, the etiology and pathogenesis of ASD remain largely unclear. The lack of solid knowledge on the mechanisms of these disorders decreases the opportunities for pathogenetic treatment of autism. Various theories where proposed in order to explain the pathophysiology underlying ASD. Despite the fact that none of them is able to completely explain the impairments in the nervous system of ASD patients, these hypotheses were instrumental in highlighting the most important mechanisms in the development of this complex disorder. Some new theories are based on neurovisualization studies, others on the data from genomic studies, which become increasingly available worldwide. As the research in this field is largely dependent on the animal models, there is an ongoing discussion and search for the most appropriate one adequately reproducing the pathology. Here we provide an overview of current theories of the origin and development of ASD discussed in the context of existing and proposed rodent models of ASD.