What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities which affect behavior, communication and social interaction. Most children with ASDs appear to develop relatively normally until the ages of 18 to 36 months. During this window parents or professionals begin to notice developmental delays. Mild forms of Autism Spectrum Disorder may resemble a learning disability while more severe forms may involve substantial impairment of communication, learning and social abilities, abnormal responses to sensory stimuli and sometimes self-injurious behavior. Individuals with Autism may have one or two skill areas which exceed age-matched peers’ skill levels. These skills frequently appear in the areas of mathematical computation, music, art or memory.

Common Characteristics of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders:

Social Interaction

  • May have poor or atypical eye contact
  • May fail to respond or have a delayed response to his or her name
  • May not like to be held or cuddled
  • May not seem aware of others feelings
  • May prefer to play alone


  • Atypical language development
  • May lose previously acquired ability to say words or sentences
  • May speak with an abnormal tone or rhythm
  • May repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language (echolalia)
  • May have difficulty starting or maintaining conversations


  • May ???over react??? or ???not be affected??? by the way things smell, taste, look, feel or sound
  • May engage in repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand flapping
  • May develop of prefer specific routines, orders or rituals
  • May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a car, rather than playing with the ???whole??? car
  • May have a persistent intense preoccupation with a single item, idea or person

There are many differences among individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Each individual has a different combination of characteristics that fall under the categories listed above. It is the combination of characteristics and the degree to which these characteristics affect learning and functional living that determine the individual???s placement on the Autism Spectrum.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Facts

  • 1 child in 68 has ASD
  • 4 out of 5 people with ASD are boys
  • There are no racial, ethnic or social boundaries
  • Early intervention has shown great effectiveness in treating ASD Symptoms
  • ASD affects the way in which people understand and react to the world around them
  • Most children are not diagnosed until after age 4 years, however diagnosis at age 2 years is reliable, valid, and stable
  • ASD is not associated with an IQ score
  • ASD costs the nation over $35 billion per year
  • ASD receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases
  • It is not your fault, and you are not alone

What Causes Autism?

There is no definitive known cause for Autism Spectrum Disorders at this time. Current research links ASDs to biological or neurological differences in the brain. These biological and neurological differences are thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Less than 10% of individuals with a diagnosis of ASD have an identifiable syndrome or medical disorder known to be associated with ASDs. Some of the syndromes that are associated with ASDs may include but are not limited to:

  • Fragile X Syndrome
  • Tuberous Sclerosis and more rarely Neurofibromatosis
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Angelman Syndrome
  • Rett Syndrome
  • Smith-Lemli-Optiz Syndrome

Other diagnoses that may co-occur with ASDs and may affect the long term outcomes of a child may include but are not limited to:

  • Intellectual Disability ??or Mental Retardation
  • Global Developmental Delay
  • Seizure Disorders

Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder:

  • Lack of appropriate gaze
  • Lack of warm joyful expressions with gaze
  • Lack of to and fro patterns of vocalizations between infant and caregiver
  • Lack of recognition of caregivers voice
  • Disregard for vocalizations but keen awareness of environmental sounds
  • Delayed onset of babbling (past 9 months of age)
  • Decreased use of or absence of pointing, waving, showing
  • Lack of expressions such as ???oh, oh??? or ???huh???
  • Lack of interest or response of any kind of neutral statements such as ???Oh no, it???s raining again!???