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Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can vary in severity of symptoms, age of onset, and the presence of various features of language and intellectual ability. The manifestations of ASD can differ individuals. Even though there are strong and consistent commonalities, especially in social deficits, there is no single behavior that is always present in every individual with ASD and no behavior that would automatically exclude an individual from diagnosis of ASD.

How do I know it may be autism?

Individuals with ASD interact differently with others. They often appear to have difficulty understanding and expressing emotion and may express attachment in a different manner. Individuals often actually do want to have social relationships with others and build friendships.

Many individuals with ASD do not develop effective spoken language and rely upon other methods of communicating such as pointing to pictures or using a tablet computer with special language applications.  Others have echolalia, the repeating of words or phrases over and over. Individuals with ASD often have difficulty understanding the nonverbal aspect of language such as social cues, body language and vocal qualities (pitch, tone, and volume).

Individuals with ASD often have a great need for "sameness and routine”. This is often the reason for upset if objects in their environment or time schedules change. Children with ASD may not play with toys in the same manner as their peers and may become fixated on specific objects. Persons with ASD have a different reaction to sensory stimuli - seeing, hearing, feeling or tasting things with more or less intensity than others.

Children with ASD often have a different rate of development, especially in the areas of communication, and social and cognitive skills. In contrast, motor development may occur at a typical rate. Sometimes skills will appear in children with ASD at the expected rate or time and then disappear again.


Remember, Autism is a so-called “spectrum disorder”.

Symptoms may be much milder than described and may not include language or intellectual disability (formerly called Asperger Syndrome).
Children are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed until later in life. Consider the following questions:


Does your child…

  • Not speak as well as his or her peers?

  • Have poor eye contact?

  • Not respond selectively to his or her name?

  • Act as if he or she is in his or her own world?

  • Seem to “tune others out”?

  • Not have a social smile?

  • Seem unable to tell you what he or she wants, preferring to lead you by the hand or get desired objects on his or her own, even at risk of danger?

  • Have difficulty following simple commands?

  • Not bring things to you simply to “show” you?

  • Not point to interesting objects to direct your attention to objects or events of interest?

  • Have unusually long and severe temper tantrums?

  • Have repetitive, odd, or stereotypical behaviors?

  • Show an unusual attachment to inanimate objects, especially hard ones (e.g., flashlight or a chain vs. teddy bear or blanket)?

  • Prefer to play alone?

  • Demonstrate an inability to play with toys in a typical way?

  • Not engage in pretend play (if older than 2 years)?


Steps to take if you think your child may have autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects each individual differently and at varying degrees - this is why early diagnosis is so crucial. ASD is a lifelong condition, but early intervention contributes to lifelong positive outcomes.

  1. Get a diagnosis. If you're concerned, see a doctor who's familiar with ASD. Don't assume the child will catch up. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers an online pediatrician referral service, searchable by specialty and location.

    2. Get help. Education, intervention and speech therapy are often critical.

    3. Know your rights. Children with autism can be eligible for early intervention and special education services that are free starting at            age three.  Your health insurance may include coverage for the medical services your child needs.

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