What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism is currently the most prevalent developmental disorder in young children, affecting 1 in 90 children under the age of three. Because autism is a “spectrum disorder”, the symptoms present a wide range and can be difficult to fully detect. We believe that the statistics of children with autism is actually higher, but that many children have not received a formal diagnosis. Autism can be detected as early as 12 months, if parents and pediatricians are keen to the warning signs. Children who are identified early and receive intensive treatment will have the best chance for future outcomes. Pediatricians can screen for autism in infants with the M-CHAT, a developmental checklist that takes virtually minutes to complete and can change a child’s life. Parents are urged to be in touch with their child’s early development.

The term autism spectrum disorder refers to a group of developmental disorders including:

  • Autism
  • High Functioning Autism
  • Aspergers Syndrome
  • PDD-NOS

These disorders are all marked by delays in three developmental domains:

  • Communication (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Social interaction
  • Behavior (responses to environment, interests)

To date, there is no known cause or cure for autism. However, there is hope. We strongly agree with researchers when it comes to treatment…early IS essential and more IS better. If your child is exhibiting developmental delays, contact a specialist for a full evaluation.

The following are general developmental areas for special consideration in identifying autism spectrum disorder:

  • difficulty relating to others or lack of social interest
  • play lacks creativity or symbolic quality (child may prefer concrete activities vs. pretend)
  • not follow another’s perspective or interest in his/her surroundings (by pointing, shifting eye gaze, or gaining another’s attention)
  • may show interest in toys or people, but does not seem to engage in back-and-forth play
  • insists on rigid, structured routines or sequence of events
  • has trouble expressing wants and needs using appropriate eye contact, gestures, or verbal communication

Here is a guideline of typical child development at early ages and stages, which has been compiled from various professional resources.

By 12 months, a child will likely:

■ say 3-5 words
■ recognize and respond to his/her name
■ understand simple directions/adult gestures
■ initiate familiar words, gestures, sounds
■ understand names for common objects

By 18 months, a child will likely:

■ identify objects in a picture book
■ laugh at silly actions of others
■ follow simple 1 step instructions
■ beginning pretend play with objects
■ say 8-10 understood words
■ call for mother or father
■ compete with other children for a toy
■ recognize self in mirror or photos
■ bring toy to adult to initiate play

By 24 months, a child will likely:

■ explore new toys and surroundings
■ point to 5+ parts on self or doll
■ demonstrate vocabulary of several hundred words
■ use 2-3 word sentences
■ use communication to comment or ask about surroundings
■ show awareness of adult’s approval or disapproval
■ begin to use pronouns/possessives (me, mine)

For more information about Early Signs, please go to www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

For more ages and stages and to watch comparison videos, please go to www.autismspeaks.org  and log onto their video glossary.