About Autism

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (autism or ASD) is a *developmental disability that affects how people experience the world around them. It can affect an individual’s social, communication, and behavioral abilities in a spectrum of ways. Communication, problem-solving, learning, and social-interactions may cause challenges ranging from **low support to high support levels. Autism is usually diagnosed in early childhood and while there is no known cause for autism, early diagnosis can help a person with autism receive the support and services to help them live a life of health, comfort, and happiness.

*Per The Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime.

**Low-Support (formerly known as high-functioning) is where people with autism may live independently with minimal assistance. High-Support (formerly known as low-functioning) are more severe cases that require assistance in daily life.


Autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome used to be diagnosed separately but are now all classified under ASD. 

The CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network states that 1 in 54 children are believed to fall on the autism spectrum. Boys are 4+ times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls. However, it is important to note that girls can be autistic too and may display behaviors differently, in turn, causing them to go longer without a diagnosis.

Common Characteristics

Please note, there is no right or wrong way to be autistic. Some will have multiple characteristics and some won’t.

  • Delay in or absence of speech
  • Repeating or echoing words or phrases. Example: repeating the last words spoken to them in place of an independent answer.
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Difficulty with changes/transitions in routine
  • Repetitive movements or speech/sounds. Also known as stimming (hand flapping, rocking, lining up or grouping of items).
  • Intense interest in particular subjects/objects
  • Difficulty in socializing (back and forth conversations, reading of body language or facial expressions, understanding personal space).
  • Aversions to certain sounds, lighting, smells, or textures.


The standardized criteria to help diagnose ASD is based on The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and follows as such:

  1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
  2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
  3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

For more information, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html

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