What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

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What Is ASD? (Autism Spectrum Disorder)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. People with ASD often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills.

The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

What are the Signs of Autism? 

Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.

Children or adults with ASD might:

  • Not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)
  • Not look at objects when another person points at them
  • Have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
  • Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to
  • Appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • Be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play or relate to them
  • Repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
  • Have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • Not play "pretend" games (for example, do not pretend to "feed" a doll) 
  • Repeat actions over and over again
  • Have trouble adapting when a routine changes
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel or sound
  • Lost skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they had been using)

Children diagnosed with ASD typically do not show all of the behaviors described above but show enough to warrant diagnosis.