What is Autism?

“If you know one child with autism, you know one child with autism.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be broadly defined as a group of lifelong developmental disorders with some similar key characteristics. Because there is such a wide spectrum when it comes to autism, it is important to note that no two individuals will face the same challenges, nor will they necessarily benefit from the same approach. People with autism often have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Attention and behavioral challenges that may lead to difficulties in learning particularly in school settings

  • Social challenges involving difficulty in communicating and interacting with others

  • Sensory sensitivities; under or over reaction to stimulation of one or more of the five senses

  • Repetitive behaviors, limited interests, and a need for sameness

Although some individuals may be mildly disabled by their symptoms, others may be severely impaired. While there is currently no known cure for autism, there are many treatments which can improve an individual’s symptoms and ability to function. ABA is currently the most widely recognized evidence based practice. As research learns more about ASD, we are able to continually improve treatment methods and diagnose at a younger age. Although it is never too late, it is important to seek treatment as early as possible.

Signs & Symptoms

 

Studies have shown that nearly 50% of parents of children on the autism spectrum were able to notice a problem before their child’s first birthday, and between 80% to 90% of parents were able to identify problems by their second birthday.
While there are many “red flags” or warning signs of autism, it is important to note that not all people with autism will show all of these behaviors, and some people without autism will display some of these behaviors. Some possible signs include:

  • A lack of eye contact

  • Lining up objects

  • Not pointing to objects to show interest by 14 months of age

  • Not responding to their name by 12 months of age

  • Delay in speech and language

  • Not playing “pretend” games by 18 months of age

  • Engage in self-stimulating behaviors such as rocking their body, flapping their hands, or spinning in circles

  • Prefers to play alone

  • Avoids physical contact

  • Only interacts to achieve a goal

  • Has flat or inappropriate facial expressions or emotional responses

  • Becomes upset by a change in routine

  • Does not imitate others

  • Does not understand jokes, sarcasm, or others’ feelings

  • Likes parts of toys rather than the whole (for example, wheels on a toy car)

  • Inability to focus

  • May cause self injury or aggressive towards others

  • Difficulties in eating and/or sleeping habits