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What is Autism?

What is Autism?

Autism is one of a group of developmental disabilities commonly referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which cause significant impairments in communication, socialization, and behavioral differences.

Autism is characterized by:

  • Impairments in verbal and non-verbal communication
  • Socialization deficits
  • Repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior


  • An ASD begins before the age of three and lasts throughout a person’s lifetime
  • ASDs know no racial, ethnic, income or social boundaries
  • There is no definitive cause or cure
  • Specialized interventions can give individuals with autism the tools they require to lead full and productive lives
  • Many people with ASD have unusual ways of learning, paying attention, and reacting to different stimuli

Autism Statistics

  • About 1 in 54 children has been identified with ASD according to estimates from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. 
  • ASD is more than 4 times more common among boys than among girls. 
  • As many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism

Diagnosing ASD

There is no medical test for ASDs. Doctors look at behavioral symptoms to make a diagnosis. These symptoms may appear within the first few months of life or may show up at any time before the age of three.

Who can diagnose ASD?

  • Developmental Pediatrician
  • Neurologist
  • Licensed Psychologist (including a L.E.P.)
  • Psychiatrist

Individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder Might:

  • Not play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll)
  • Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over)
  • Not look at objects when another person points at them
  • Have difficulty relating to others or not show an interest in other people at all
  • Have limited eye contact or avoid eye contact with others
  • Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Prefer not to be held or cuddled or might cuddle only when they want to
  • Appear to be unaware when other people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • Be very interested in people, but not know how to talk to, play with, or relate to them
  • Repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language (echolalia)
  • Have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • Repeat actions over and over again
  • Have trouble adapting to changes in routine
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
  • Lose skills they once had (for instance, stop saying words they were once using)

If You Suspect Your Child Has an ASD:

  • Call your pediatrician and share your concerns and request a developmental screening
  • Visit, for more information on ASD and possible signs
  • Make an appointment to see a specialist as listed above
  • Call your local Regional Center or school district to schedule an assessment
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