What is Autism?

Learn more about autism spectrum disorder.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.  Autism affects every race, gender, creed, and socio-economic background.

Early identification can change lives

Autism is treatable. Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies do show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes. For more information on developmental milestones, visit the CDC’s Know the Signs. Act Early site.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a useful resource of developmental milestones to help you understand what some of the target skills children should be developing at each age.  Click here to explore the developmental milestone that is typically based on a child’s age.

Early warning signs- children under 2 years old.

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language (no babbling by 12 months / no words by 16 months)
  • Little or no eye contact or facial expressions (no big smiles or joyful expressions by 6 months / no pointing, showing or reaching by 12 months)
  • Unusually sensitive senses; taste, touch, vision, smell and/or hearing.
  • Difficult to comfort; perhaps only comforted by motion or limp or stiff when held.

Later developmental warning signs – children over 2 years old.

  • Any LOSS of Language skills.
  • Learns better with visual cues versus verbal instruction.
  • Repetitive use of phrases, or Echolalia – repeating movie or tv show script to communicate.
  • Unable or difficulty participating in a back and forth conversation with another person.
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships – plays by themselves when in a group.
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play– lining toys up instead of playing as intended.
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects– spinning wheels on cars.
  • Getting extremely upset over minor changes in routine- playing a game in a new way or moving furniture to a new spot.
  • Repetitive motor mannerisms– hand-flapping, twirling objects or tip toe walking.
  • Spending lots of time seeking sensory input- crashing into objects, spinning in circles, hiding in tight spaces.
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain- obviously injured, but no response.
  • Self-Injurious behaviors- skin picking, head banging, Pica-eating non-food items.
  • Difficulty understanding unwritten social rules and norms.