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Happy Childhood

WHAT IS Autism?

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. People with autism interact, communicate, behave, and learn in ways that are different from others. This includes a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, and social skills. However, the abilities of people with autism largely vary. 

As children become adolescents and adults, people with autism may have difficulty communicating with peers, developing and maintaining friendships, or understanding what behaviors are expected at school or work. ASD lasts throughout a person’s lifetime, but symptoms can improve overtime.


There are many signs and symptoms of ASD which includes social communication and interaction skills, restricted or repetitive behaviors, and other characteristics. Examples of social communication and interaction skills include:

  • Avoids or does not keep eye contact

  • Does not respond to name by 9 months of age

  • Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, or surprised by 9 months of age

  • Does not play interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age

  • Uses few or no gestures by 12 months of age

  • Does not share interests with others by 15 months of age

  • Does not point to show something interesting by 18 months of age

  • Does not notice when others are upset or hurt by 24 months of age

  • Does not notice other children or play with them by 36 months of age

  • Does not pretend to be something else, like a teacher or superhero, by 48 months of age

  • Does not sing, dance, or act by 60 months of age

**It is important to note that some children with ASD may or may not experience all signs and symptoms listed.



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Playing Games with Grandpa

Examples of restricted or repetitive behaviors include:

  • Lines up toys or other objects and gets upset when order is changed

  • Repeats words or phrases over and over (echolalia)

  • Plays with toys the same way every time

  • Is focused on parts of objects

  • Gets upset by minor changes

  • Has obsessive interests

  • Must follow certain routines

  • Flaps hands, rocks body, or spins self in circles

  • Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel

Other characteristics of symptoms include:

  • Delayed language skills

  • Delayed movement skills

  • Delayed cognitive or learning skills

  • Hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive behavior

  • Epilepsy or seizure disorder

  • Unusual eating and habits

  • Gastrointestinal issues (Ex: constipation)

  • Unusual mood or emotional reactions

  • Anxiety, stress, or excessive worry

  • Lack of fear or more fear than expected

**It is important to note that some children with ASD may or may not experience all signs and symptoms listed.

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There is no medical test used to diagnose autism. Instead diagnosis involves the combination of several factors: 

  • Developmental Monitoring- a process that observes a child’s growth and whether they meet milestones or skills by a certain age in learning, playing, behaving, speaking, and moving. 

  • Developmental Screening- Occur during well-child visits at 9 months, 18 months, 24, and 30 months. Screening checklist and questionnaires consist of research that compares your child to other children of the same age. Questions may ask about behaviors, emotions, language, movement, and thinking skills.

  • Developmental diagnosis- A  in-depth look at a child’s development conducted by a trained specialist such as child psychologist, occupational therapist, developmental pediatrician, speech-language pathologist, or other specialist. The result of this evaluation highlights a child’s strengths and challenges and can inform if they meet the criteria for a developmental diagnosis.

HOw Diagnosis WoRks:


Current treatments for autism seek to reduce symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and quality of life. There are many types of treatment available: 

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