Jefferson University Hospitals

Autism

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Kids reading together outside

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a term used to describe a group of developmental disorders that cause difficulties with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 59 children have ASD. It is about four times more likely in boys than in girls.

There are many types of ASD, which can pose unique challenges and strengths. It can affect the way people learn, think and solve programs. Although some people with autism require significant care and support, others may thrive independently.

Signs & Symptoms of Autism

The signs and symptoms of autism can appear as early as 18 months, but are usually apparent by age two or three. Main symptoms include social communication challenges and restricted, repetitive behaviors. These symptoms typically appear in early childhood, continue and interfere with daily life. The severity of these symptoms will determine how much support a child will need.

Sensory issues are common among people with autism, and include over- or under-sensitivities to sound, light, touch, taste, smell, pain and more.

Social communication symptoms include difficulty understanding verbal and non-verbal communication, such as speaking, gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, and expressions. This means, a child might:

  • Have poor eye contact
  • Not respond to their name
  • Resist cuddling or holding
  • Not speak, have delayed speech, or not be able to hold a conversation
  • Not express feelings or appear unaware of others' feelings
  • And more

Restricted and repetitive behaviors might include rocking/flapping/spinning, staring at lights, having narrow interests in specific topics, and a need for the same daily routine.