What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause challenges in childhood development, behavior, communication, and social skills. Like other developmental disabilities, Autism exists on a spectrum meaning each child with ASD will have unique strengths and unique challenges. Autism can typically be identified quite early in life – around 18 months – and lasts throughout adulthood. Oftentimes, developmental skills, and communication/social barriers, can be improved through services like ABA Therapy and Precision Teaching. Autism can be diagnosed by specialists in Developmental or Behavioral Pediatrics as well as Child Psychiatry, Psychology or Neurology. 

What Causes Autism?

There is no single cause or clear-cut explanation for why some children have ASD. However, there is evidence indicating that Autism is, at least partially, caused by genetics. For example children with:
  •  Siblings on the spectrum
  • Are born with certain genetic conditions
  • Have older parents
All have a greater risk of being diagnosed with ASD. Additionally, while there is no scientific link between vaccines and ASD, some prescription medications (specifically valproic acid and thalidomide) have been proven to increase a child’s risk if taken during pregnancy(1).

Common Signs & Symptoms

Autism can be diagnosed by a specialist in Developmental/Behavioral Pediatrics, Speech Pathology, or Child Psychology around 18 months of age. Diagnosis is made through a formal evaluation but, signs of ASD typically present earlier. Some common signs include:

  • Delays or regression in early development
  • Challenges connecting with others
  • Trouble expressing needs
  • Struggling to adapt to changes in routine
  • Limited imaginative (pretend) play
  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Repetitious behavior
  • Strong preference for one specific interest