Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. The abilities of people with ASD can vary significantly. Some can have advanced conversations, while others are nonverbal. Some need help with their daily life while others live and work independently.
Early identification and treatment is important for helping people with ASD function as independently as possible. If you are concerned about your child, speak to their pediatrician immediately.
What is the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in the general population?
Autism spectrum disorder is estimated to impact 1 in 44 children according to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. It is four times more likely to impact boys than girls. The rate of diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders has risen significantly in the last decade. (nationalautismcenter.org)
What are the different types of symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder?
There are many different signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder that can interfere with a child's ability to participate in daily activities.
Signs and symptoms typically last throughout life and may include the following:
Not showing interest in objects, people, and/or environments
Having difficulty relating with others, including lack of eye contact, challenges understanding other people’s feelings, and preferring to not be touched
Delayed language skills, loss of communication abilities that the child once had, or difficulty expressing their needs
Participation in repetitive actions (like flapping their hands) or speech
Unusual reactions to sensations
Challenges adapting to changes in routine
Hyperactivity, impulsivity, or inattentive behavior
Unusual eating or sleeping habits
What are the risk factors associated with autism spectrum disorder?
Genetic factors, like having a sibling with ASD
Chromosomal abnormalities or conditions
Exposure to certain medications in utero
Experiencing complications at birth
Having parents of advanced maternal/paternal age.
What are early signs of potential autism spectrum disorder?
Avoids or does not keep eye contact
Does not use a social smile by 6 months
Does not respond to name by 9 months of age
Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by 9 months of age
Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age
Uses few or no gestures by 12 months of age (for example, does not wave goodbye)
Does not share interests with others by 15 months of age (for example, shows you an object that they like)
Does not point to show you something interesting by 18 months of age
Does not notice when others are hurt or upset by 24 months of age
Does not notice other children and join them in play by 36 months of age
Does not pretend to be something else, like a teacher or superhero, during play by 48 months of age
Does not sing, dance, or act for you by 60 months of age
Regression of skills, or loss of previously mastered skills
All children should be screened specifically for ASD during regular well-child doctor visits at 18 months and 24 months. Early identification improves outcomes by allowing participation in early intervention to improve learning, communication and social skills, as well as underlying brain development.
For more information and resources:
Visit Autism Speaks (https://www.autismspeaks.org/resource-guide) for free resources, including:
- Advocacy (legal, financial, parent training)
- Information about Autism friendly services
- Information about schools
- Employment, transition, and vocational opportunities
- Information about evaluation and diagnosis
- Health and Medical information
- Support groups
- Local disability organizations
- Information about different therapies and treatments
If you are concerned about your child:
Speak to your child’s pediatrician about your concerns.
Ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist who can do a more in-depth evaluation of your child. Specialists who can do a more in-depth evaluation and make a diagnosis include
Developmental pediatricians (doctors who have special training in child development and children with special needs)
Child neurologists (doctors who work on the brain, spine, and nerves)
Child psychologists or psychiatrists (doctors who know about the human mind)