What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

“Autism is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that affects essential human behaviors such as social interaction, the ability to communicate ideas and feelings, imagination, self-regulation, and the ability to establish relationships with others.” autismacceptance.org

ASD contains a vast range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skill, repetitive behavior, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the CDC, 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with autism. Six years ago the statistic was 1 in 88 children, eleven years ago it was 1 in 125 children.

As of 2013, the American Psychiatric Association has merged four autism diagnoses into the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The four distinct diagnoses include: autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified, and Asperger syndrome.

Autism is a spectrum disorder with many subtypes, there is no one type of autism, these subtypes are influenced by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Since autism is on a spectrum, every autistic individual has a clear set of strengths and challenges. Some individuals need constant support in their day-to-day, while others need less support, or may live completely independent lives.

Signs of autism (professional evaluation is crucial, as children without ASD may show symptoms):

6 months
– limited or no eye contact
– very few or no smiles, or other engaging joyful expressions

9 months
– lack of back-and-forth sharing of smiles, sounds or other expressions

12 months
– little or no babbling
– lack of back-and-forth gestures like pointing or waving
– lack of response to name

16 months
– little or no verbal communication

Any age
– loss of acquired speech, social skills or babbling
– repetitive behaviors (rocking, spinning, etc.)
– restricted interests
– avoiding eye contact
– insistent preference for solitude
– difficulty understanding other’s feelings
– language development is delayed
– unusual reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors
– resistance to minor changes in routine and surroundings
– constant repetition of phrases, words or sounds

Looking to learn more or donate? Go to https://www.autismacceptance.org/