Information for Parents and Caregivers
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association used to diagnose mental disorders, people with ASD have:
Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
Symptoms that hurt the person’s ability to function properly in school, work, and other areas of life
Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. ASD occurs in all ethnic, racial, and economic groups. Although ASD can be a lifelong disorder, treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism. All caregivers should talk to their doctor about ASD screening or evaluation.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
These may include problems in using nonverbal communication (e.g., making eye contact, facial expressions), problems making friends with other children their own age, and difficulties understanding social or emotional signs. For example, a child with autism might have trouble taking turns during conversation or play.
It may be the child is old enough to speak but doesn’t. Or has problems with having conversations, repeating words or phrases, and no free or make-believe play. In children with autism who do speak, the pitch, tone, speed, or rhythm can seem unbalanced.
A child may be fixated with “limited patterns” (e.g., machines with motors). A child may do the same thing over and over, like saying the same word, routines (e.g., counting steps, separating food by colors), movements (e.g., hand-flapping), or overly focused on parts of an object.
Making little or inconsistent eye contact
Tending not to look at or listen to people
Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others
Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or to other verbal attempts to gain attention
Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversation
Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond
Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said
Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like
Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions
Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors. For example, repeating words or phrases, a behavior called echolalia
Having a lasting intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts
Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects
Getting upset by slight changes in a routine
Being more or less sensitive than other people to sensory input, such as light, noise, clothing, or temperature
These scientifically supported sites are among psychology’s best for helping parents raise their kids.
Choose each topic of interest to view resource:
How to minimize the stress and anxiety by Margaret Dyson PhD
One of the leading autism science and advocacy organizations. Autism Speaks provides a comprehensive resource guide for all states. The site also boasts an impressive list of apps that parents may find useful, including games that focus on communication and social skills.
In the past, children with these behaviors were diagnosed with one of a set of distinct disorders—autism, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). Now these separate diagnoses are combined into what’s called the autism spectrum. Learn more about autism in children, including diagnosis and treatment, behavioral challenges, school issues, services, and controversies. (Autism spectrum disorder, applied behavioral analysis, treatment of ASD)
Effective Therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder, About autism spectrum disorder, coping with ASD, treatment options for ASD, ASD symptoms
(NIH) National Institute of Neurological Disorders
Autism Spectrum Disorder Facts
(about autism spectrum disorder, treatment for ASD, coping with ASD, ASD organization)
(About, diagnosis, treatments, behaviors)
(about autism spectrum disorder, early signs of ASD, ASD interventions)
(What is autism spectrum disorder, screening and diagnosis, signs of ASD, facts about ASD, treatment, managing ASD)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.