Autism is a brain disorder that makes it hard for a person to communicate and interact with others. A child is born with autism, or with the tendency to develop it. And unfortunately, right now it’s not something you can prevent.

Autism is the most common of a group of related disorders called autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs). The next most common autistic spectrum disorder is Asperger’s syndrome. While an ASD is sometimes first diagnosed in an adult, these disorders are most often identified and diagnosed in childhood. The reason ASD s are called “spectrum” disorders is that they affect people differently and to different degrees. Symptoms and behaviors can vary, ranging from mild to severe. For this reason, treatment plans are highly individualized.

What Are The Symptoms Of Autism?

People with autism have one or more symptoms in each of the areas listed below.

Problems With Social Interactions

  • Don’t use or respond to social cues like eye-to-eye contact, facial expressions, or body postures
  • Have trouble making friends and mixing with others
  • Appear aloof, and seem to prefer to spend time alone
  • Have difficulty taking turns and/or losing during games
  • Lack interest in sharing ideas, fun activities, or achievements with others
  • May not want to cuddle or be cuddled
  • Don’t engage in imaginative or symbolic play

Trouble Communicating

  • Have delayed language development
  • Have trouble starting or maintaining conversation
  • Talk AT - not WITH - others in one-sided conversations
  • May repeat words or phrases
  • Have difficulty expressing needs - may gesture or point instead of using words
  • Are not responsive to verbal cues - may appear deaf

Repeating Patterns of Behavior, Interests, and Activities

  • Have intense preoccupations with certain topics
  • May have unusual attachments to particular objects
  • Insist on schedules, routines, and rituals
  • Display sustained odd play or gestures (for example, spinning objects, hand or finger flapping, or rocking)
  • May hurt themselves (for example, bite their own arms) or physically attack others
  • Are noticeably over-active or under-active
  • May have uneven development of motor skills. (for example, can stack blocks, but not kick a ball)

Some People With Autism...

  • May be overly sensitive to sounds, sights, sensations, and smells. For example, particular smells might cause a child to gag. Bright lights or even a hug may cause the child to draw back. 
  • May be overly sensitive to pain — or may be noticeably under sensitive to pain
  • Show little or no fear of danger.

How Is Autism Diagnosed?

“Diagnosis: the earlier, the better”. If your child has been diagnosed with autism or your doctor is looking for a diagnosis; an evaluation with a pediatric speech language therapist can help you understand how your child is affected and help you understand methods to help your child’s daily function and development.

There’s no single test to diagnose autism. Instead, doctors rely on the following; Checklists and questionnaires, standard medical criteria, and other medical tests.

At the speech language evaluation the therapist will have you complete checklists about your child and will observe and interact directly with your child to evaluate the following areas: his/her ability to communicate effectively, use words and sentences, understand language in order to follow directions, speak clearly, learn a variety of skills/concepts, socialize with other children and adults, and eat a variety of foods. The speech language therapist will also screen your child for deficits in sensory integration, activities of daily living, play skills, writing and or general fine motor skills, general gross motor skills and refer to an occupational therapist if needed.

The speech language therapist will communicate recommendations for treatment to the doctor and recommend further evaluation if indicated.

Clinical evidence for treatment of autism indicates that early, intensive, individualized treatment has the most success. Your child may be scheduled with the speech and/or occupational therapist. The treatment plan will be based on the parent and child’s priorities and might include the following interventions:

  • Social Communication
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Environmental and parent Support
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Language treatment
  • Speech treatment
  • Cognitive skills development
  • Auditory Processing treatment
  • Attention training
  • Augmentative Communication training
  • Social Skills training
  • Feeding/Eating Treatment
  • Self-Care Training
  • Play Skills Expansion
  • Fine Motor training
  • Sensory Integration Treatment
  • Visual Support Strategies
  • Interpersonal Relationship Skills Training
  • Social Communication Training
  • The Listening Program
  • Pre-vocational Skills Training
  • Gross Motor training


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