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Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a broad spectrum.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, Autism affects roughly 1 in 59 children in the United States. Developmentally a child with autism will demonstrate deficits in the ability to communicate and interact with others. Consistent, repetitive behaviors can limit the ability to perform skills at their age level. Scientifically – there is no medical test that definitively concludes a child has autism. Doctors evaluate a child’s social communication, peer interaction and overall behaviors to determine if an autism diagnosis is accurate.



Typically, Autism is more prevalent in boys than girls.  There are many subtypes of autism, which can be influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.  Each individual with autism has their own set of strengths and challenges.  Some individuals with Autism require significant support in their day to day activities, whereas others may require less support. 

Signs of Autism typically appear by the age 2 or 3 and can be diagnosed as early as 18 months.  Research has shown that early intervention can lead to positive outcomes for individuals diagnosed with Autism.  The signs of Autism can appear at various times and intensity in individuals.  Not all individuals show all the signs.  Individuals who do not have autism may show a few of the signs.  Having an evaluation by highly trained and qualified staff is crucial. 

Symptoms of Autism: Below are the 2 major signs of autism accompanied by some examples of symptoms.

  • Deficits in social communication or social interaction​​

    • May loose acquired speech or may not speak

    • Difficulty recognizing emotions and intentions of others or their own emotions

    • May feel overwhelmed in social situations

    • May not show appropriate distance in personal space

  • Lack of facial expressions

  • Lack of eye contact

  • Restricted or repetitive behavior, interests, or activities

    • Repetitive body movements: rocking, flapping hands, spinning, running back and forth

    • Repetitive motions with objects: spinning wheels, flipping levers, shaking sticks

    • Ritualistic behaviors: lining up objects, completing routines in a specific order

    • Need for unvarying routine/resistant to change: same daily schedule, clothes, route to school

There are 3 different levels of Autism:

  • Level 1: Restricted, Repetitive Behaviors “Requiring Support”

  • Level 2: Social Communication “Requiring Substantial Support”

  • Level 3: Severity level “Requiring Very Substantial Support”


For more information on Autism, visit


What Should You Be Looking For?

As a parent and caregiver to a child you want to give them the best possibilities. Sometimes it's difficult to be able to tell the difference in developmental delays and childhood behaviors. There is no "normal" when it comes to development as every child develops differently, there is simply a standard of guidelines in order to be able to base diagnosis and treatments on. Knowing your child's milestones and rate of development is a key element in helping them when problems arise. Knowing the next step your child should be meeting is important. 

Deficits to look for that MAY indicate autism.

Motor Deficits

  • Lack of coordination

  • Difficulty with using sensory information for movement

  • Decreased hand-eye coordination

  • Delays in fine motor skills (ie, buttoning pants, zipping a jacket, cutting paper)

  • Difficulty with planning and repeating movements

  • Poor balance

  • Poor posture control

  • Difficulty in gross motor skills (ie, walking, running, kicking, throwing, jumping)

  • Challenged by movements performed in specific orders

Cognitive Deficits

  • Academic performance evaluations below average

  • Difficulty with problem solving

  • Limited ability to plan and organize

  • Executive functioning challenges

Sensory & Feeding Deficits

  • Picky eater

  • Prefers bland foods

  • Texture aversions

  • Sensory seeking behaviors (e.g. may chew on inedible items)

  • Under-responsiveness to sensory input

  • Over-responsiveness to sensory input

  • Sensitivity to sound, light and touch

  • Sensory modality difficulties

Behavior & Emotional Regulation Challenges

  • Lack of safety awareness

  • Irregular sleep patterns

  • Limited ability to generalize learned skills

  • Difficulty with changes in routine

  • Inappropriate crying, anger or laughing for no known reason

  • Excessive number of tantrums

  • Anxiety or social withdrawal

  • Inappropriate strategies for self-calming

  • I.e. May flap hands, rock body back and forth, chew on clothing, etc

Social Communication

  • Does not understand turn-taking play

  • Struggles with pretend play concepts

  • Does not respect personal space between people

  • Atypical play with toys (i.e. line ups or throw toys)

  • Little to no interest in attracting attention from others

  • Limited ability to initiate or participate in play with another person

  • Limited awareness of other's emotional states, perspective and intentions

  • Difficulty with conversational skills

Language Development

  • Difficulty understanding figurative language (ie, jokes or sarcasm)

  • Echolalia - repeating others

  • Scripting - repeating scripts from movies/TV shows

  • Child may lose words that were previously acquired

  • Does not use words in the correct order/tenses

  • Limited number of newly learned words

  • Deficits with receptive and expressive language skills

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