Autism Spectrum Disorder



What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. The exact causes are unknown but research shows influencing factors to include genetic conditions, as well as,  environmental, chemical, and other factors.

Wide Spectrum of Abilities and Limitations

Individuals with autism look like everyone else.  They do not have any external distinguishing features that identify them as having autism. Since autism is an “invisible” condition, teachers and others interacting with a person who has autism may not be aware of the individual’s limitations.  Atypical behavior, an odd communication style or difficulty with interpersonal interactions may appear as rude or hostile rather than a consequence of a medical impairment. 

Persons with autism are all different. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less. The range (spectrum) sometimes causes confusion among those unfamiliar with the condition leading to misunderstandings and denial of accommodations.

Education to help those working with children learn how to recognize and interact with children who have autism is greatly needed. 


What is Autism? 
Autism Red Flags


Part 1-Communication:

Not pointing at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over) -not looking at objects when another person points at them -repeating or echoing words or phrases said to them, or repeating words or phrases in place of normal language (echolalia) or idiosyncratic phrases, -having trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions -lose of skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using) -not playing “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll) -Lack of response to name -Lack of showing -Unusual prosody (overly sing-songy, not natural) -Using person’s hand as a tool.

Part 2 Social Skills:

Lack of warm, joyful expressions -having trouble relating to others or not having an interest in other people at all -avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone -having trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings -Lack of affection, preferring not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to -appearing to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds -Child may be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them -Lack of greetings (hi/bye)

Part 3 Behavior:

Red Flags for Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities: -Repeating actions over and over again; lining toys up, flipping, spinning, biting tapping -having trouble adapting when routine changes (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take the same route or eat food every day). -Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g, strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interest). -Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement) toe walking!

Top Five Myths About Autism- Video Series

 “Debunking the Top 5 Myths about Autism”

Myth #1: I caused my child’s Autism Autism is a developmental disorder that is genetic and a child is born with it.

Truth: It is not caused. It is not your fault.  

Myth #2: Autism can’t be diagnosed until age 3 Truth: Signs can be seen between 6 and 12 months. Diagnosis is usually made between 18 and 24 months. Around 24 months a diagnosis is considered, valid, stable, and reliable. 

 Myth #3: People with Autism are not smart Truth: Almost half (about 44%) of children identified with ASD have average to above-average intellectual ability.  

Myth #4: If I have 1 child with Autism, I will have another

Truth: Parents who have a child with ASD have a 2%–18% chance of having a second child who is also affected. 

 Myth #5: Autism is a rising epidemic

Truth: Professionals are identifying children better and earlier.  In support of parents finding out a new diagnosis of autism, the therapist made this video to help you know what you can expect.  

My Child Has Autism, Now What?
What are the Signs that an Adult or Child Might Have Autism?

People with ASD often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.

Children or adults with ASD might:
  • Not look at objects when another person points at them
  • Have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
  • Prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to
  • Appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • Be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
  • Have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • Repeat actions over and over again
  • Lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)
  • Not respond to their name by 12 months of age
  • Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
  • Not play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months
  • Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Have delayed speech and language skills
  • Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
  • Give unrelated answers to questions
  • Get upset by minor changes
  • Have obsessive interests
  • Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel


When are Symptoms likely to Show Up for the First Time?

ASD begins before the age of 3 and lasts throughout a person’s life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children with ASD show hints of future problems within the first few months of life. In others, symptoms may not show up until 24 months or later. Some children with an ASD seem to develop normally until around 18 to 24 months of age and then they stop gaining new skills, or they lose the skills they once had. Studies have shown that one third to half of parents of children with an ASD noticed a problem before their child’s first birthday, and nearly 80%–90% saw problems by 24 months of age.

It is important to note that some people without ASD might also have some of these symptoms. But for people with ASD, the impairments make life very challenging.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Children with ASD develop at different rates in different areas. They may have delays in language, social, and learning skills, while their ability to walk and move around are about the same as other children their age. They might be very good at putting puzzles together or solving computer problems, but they might have trouble with social activities like talking or making friends. Children with an ASD might also learn a hard skill before they learn an easy one. For example, a child might be able to read long words but not be able to tell you what sound a “b” makes.

Children develop at their own pace, so it can be difficult to tell exactly when a child will learn a particular skill. But, there are age-specific developmental milestones used to measure a child’s social and emotional progress in the first few years of life. To learn more about developmental milestones, visit “Learn the Signs. Act Early,” a campaign designed by CDC and a coalition of partners to teach parents, health care professionals, and child care providers about early childhood development, including possible “red flags” for autism spectrum disorders.

How is a Diagnosis of Autism Made?

Diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.

ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable.1 However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with ASD might not get the early help they need.

The Importance of on-going Health Monitoring

There are no medications that can cure ASD or treat the core symptoms. However, there are medications that can help some people with ASD function better. For example, medication might help manage high energy levels, inability to focus, depression, or seizures.
Medications might not affect all children in the same way. It is important to work with a health care professional who has experience in treating children with ASD. Parents and health care professionals must closely monitor a child’s progress and reactions while he or she is taking a medication to be sure that any negative side effects of the treatment do not outweigh the benefits.

It is also important to remember that children with ASD can get sick or injured just like children without ASD. Regular medical and dental exams should be part of a child’s treatment plan. Often it is hard to tell if a child’s behavior is related to the ASD or is caused by a separate health condition. For instance, head banging could be a symptom of the ASD, or it could be a sign that the child is having headaches. In those cases, a thorough physical exam is needed. Monitoring healthy development means not only paying attention to symptoms related to ASD, but also to the child’s physical and mental health, as well.


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