What is Autism?

Autism is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the name given to describe the wide range of behaviors amongst the Autistic population. Children with autism are less able to interact with the world as other children do. Typically they have deficits in three key areas:

• Verbal and non-verbal Communication

• Social awareness and interactions

• Imaginative play (variable interests and behaviors).

Autism Spectrum Disorders include:

• Autistic Disorder

• Asperger’s Disorder

• Rett’s Disorder

• Childhood Disintegrative Disorder

• Pervasive Developmental Disorder

A child or an adult with ASD might:

• Difficulty with “pretend play”

• Have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all

• Avoid eye contact

• Have trouble understanding feelings

• Prefer not to be touched or desire for deep pressure (he or she may push just to gain sensory input)

• Appear to be unaware when other people talk to them but respond to other sounds

• Have unusual interests in people and not being able to engage appropriately

• Repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in substitution of normal language

• Have difficulty expressing his/her needs using typical word or motions

• Display repetitive actions (turning wheels, flapping arms/hands)

• Have difficulty adapting when a routine changes

• Have unusual behaviors to the way things smell, taste, look, feel or sound

• Lose skills and stop saying words they were once using

Early Signs of Autism

Play Skills
At age… Did your child…

4-12 months– Enjoy toys for their sensory value-
mouthing,feeling, and hearing them

12+ months– Use toys as they were intended – feed dolls

16+ months– Give objects identities other than intended
(use blocks as cars or food)

30+ months– Imaginative play – make believe/role play

Social Interaction
At age… Did your child…

4 months– Show interest in faces, smile back,
initiate smiles

6 months– Relate to parents with joy, smile
often when playing

9 months– Orient to name, play give-and-take

12 months– Use gestures to get needs met, repeat
actions, show objects

15 months– Check parent’s facial expression, draw
attention to objects of interest, begin to show empathy

18 months– Pretend play, attract parental attention
by looks or gestures

24 months– Enjoy playing next to children, offer toys

36 months– Imagine self as a character, talk for
objects, play show and tell, talk about feelings

Joint Attention
At age… Could your child…

2 months– Exchange smiles

8 months– Follow a caregiver with his eyes

9 months– Follow a point

10 months– Show objects

12 months– Point to obtain an object

14 months– Point to indicate to another an
object of interest

14 months– Look to others to gather social information

Investigate Further and Consider Autism if:
At age… Your child…

9 months– Did not babble

12 months– Did not point or gesture

16 months– Did not use single words

24 months– Did not use 2-word phrases


At Any age Had a loss of language or social skills

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