About Autism Spectrum Disorder

little boy with blocks

Autism is a complex developmental disability that is characterized by a combination of the following:

  • impaired socialization
  • impaired communication
  • restricted/repetitive behaviors or interests

Autism is called a spectrum disorder because it is defined by a certain set of behaviors and affects individuals differently and by varying degrees. Even though people may be diagnosed with an ASD, there is a wide variety of skills, with each child having his/her own strengths and difficulties.

Two individuals with the same diagnosis can act completely differently from one another; no two people with ASD will have the same symptoms. Many of the behaviors that are exhibited also interfere with learning and result in a need for specialized, consistent attention and structure.

Some behavioral characteristics of autism might include:

  • Delay or lack of verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
  • Impairment of multiple non verbal behaviors such as eye to eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction
  • Preference to be alone, difficulty interacting/socializing with others
  • Lack of social and/or emotional reciprocity
  • Impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain conversation
  • Lack of “play” or make believe play
  • Obsessive attachment to objects, persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
  • Spinning, rocking, hand flapping or twisting and/or other self stimulating behavior

Current national estimates are that approximately one in 100 children has an autism spectrum disorder. ASD occurs in every racial, ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic group. ASD is four times more likely to occur in boys.

At present, there is not a known single cause for autism. Researchers are investigating a number of areas including genetics, environmental factors, and the interaction of genetics and environment.