Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities caused by a problem with the brain. Scientists do not know yet exactly what causes this problem. ASDs can impact a person’s functioning at different levels, from very mildly to severely. There is usually nothing about how a person with an ASD looks that sets them apart from other people, but they may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most people. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary – from gifted to severely challenged.
People with ASDs may have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASDs also have different ways of learning. paying attention, or reacting to things. ASDs begin during early childhood and last throughout a person’s life.
A child with an ASD might:
- avoid eye contact and want to be alone
- have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
- appear to be unaware when other people talk to them but respond to other sounds
- not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by age one
- not look at objects when another person points at them
- have trouble understanding other people’s feeling or talking about their own feelings prefer not to be held or cuddled or might cuddle only when they want to
- repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language (echolalia)
- have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
- have trouble adapting when a routine changes
- repeat actions over and over again
What can I do if I think my child has an ASD?
Talk with your child’s doctor. If you or your doctor thought there could be a problem, ask for a referral to see a developmental pediatrician or child psychiatrist.
The main research-based treatment for ASDs is an intensive structured teaching of skills, often called a behavioral intervention. It is very important to begin this intervention as early as possible in order to help your child reach his or her full potential. Acting early can make a real difference!