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What Is Autism

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

About Autism

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), can be characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. ​According to the CDC, Autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today.


With Autism Spectrum Disorder, each person has unique strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with Autism learn, think, and problem solve can also vary. Some people with ASD may require consistent amounts of support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and live independently. ​


Several factors may influence the development of Autism, and it is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, or sleep disorders. Mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and attention issues may also occur.


Symptoms of autism usually appear by age two or three. Developmental delays can appear even earlier, which can lead to a diagnosis as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention and parental involvement leads to positive outcomes later in the life for people with Autism.

Signs of Autism

Primary signs include: 

  • Social communication challenges and 

  • Restricted, repetitive behaviors

With Autism, these signs may:

  • Begin in early childhood (though they may go unrecognized)

  • Persist and 

  • Interfere with daily living

Qualified healthcare providers diagnose Autism using a checklist of criteria in the two categories above. They also assess the severity of the present symptoms. Autism's severity scale reflects how much support a person needs for daily function.

Many people with autism have sensory issues. These typically involve hyper- or hypo-sensitivities to sounds, lights, touch, tastes, smells, pain and other stimuli.

Social Communication Challenges

Children and adults with autism generally have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication. For example, they may not understand or appropriately use: 

  • Spoken language (approximately 1/3 of people with autism are nonverbal)

  • Gestures

  • Eye contact

  • Facial expressions

  • Tone of voice

  • Expressions not meant to be taken literally

  • Recognizing emotions and intentions in others

  • Recognizing one's own emotions

  • Seeking emotional comfort from others

  • Taking turns in conversation

  • Gauging personal space 


Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors

Restricted and repetitive behaviors vary greatly across the autism spectrum. They can include: 

  • Repetitive body movements (e.g., rocking, flapping, spinning, running back and forth)

  • Repetitive motions with objects (e.g., spinning wheels, shaking sticks, flipping levers)

  • Staring at lights or spinning objects

  • Narrow or extreme interests in specific topics

  • Need for unvarying routine / resistance to change (e.g., same daily schedule, meal menu, clothes, route to school)​

If you have more questions about autism spectrum disorder, including signs and symptoms, please let us know and we will be happy to speak with you.


Learn about role of technology in Autism here.

Learn about play therapy for Autism here

4 times

Boys are four times (4x) more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls according to the CDC 


44% of children with autism have above-average IQ scores according to the CDC

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