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Every person with ASD has a unique spectrum of symptoms, ranging from symptoms that require minimal supports to a high-level of support.

Individuals with autism, display deficits in social communication and interactions, as well as present with restricted and/or repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests, or activities (American Psychological Association, 2013). Differences in brain development and functioning relate to the presentation of autism symptoms, such as the way in which an individual may learn, communicate, or engage with other people. For some individuals, the brain differences are known (e.g., genetic conditions) but for many others there is no known cause for autism (Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]).


Autism Spectrum Disorder Characteristics

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder may demonstrate some of these behaviors:


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 prefer.


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

Objects of Interest

Absence of showing and pointing at objects of interest (point at an airplane flying over) or fail to look at objects when another person points at them.

Relating to Others

Have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all or could be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them.

Inability to "Pretend" Play

Absence of “pretend” play (pretending to “feed” a doll).

Eye Contact

Avoid eye contact and want to be alone.


Repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language (echolalia).

Trouble Expressing

Have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions.

Sensory Reactions

Have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound.

Loss of Skills

Lose skills they once had (for instance, stop saying words they were using).

Repetitive Actions

Repeat actions over and over again.

Lack of Interest in Others

Show a strong preference for following their own interests.


Have trouble adapting when a routine changes.


Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) lists these five behaviors that signal further evaluation should be pursued.

12 Months

Babble or Cooing

Child does not babble
 or coo by 12 months.

12 Months


Child does not gesture 
(point, wave, grasp) 
by 12 months.

16 Months


Child does not say single words by 16 months.

24 Months


Child does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months.


Social Skills

Child exhibits a loss or does not progress in their language or social skills.

If your child demonstrates any of these five characteristics it does not mean that your child has ASD. Because the characteristics of this disorder vary widely, your child should be evaluated further.

Please visit the CDC's Developmental Milestones Checklist to Learn More

Autism Services & Options

The basis for selecting a treatment approach should be a thorough assessment of the child’s particular skills, abilities, and needs. Based on the major characteristics associated with ASD, areas that are important to look at when creating a plan include social development, communication, behavior, and adaptive skills.

Researchers agree that early behavioral intervention can greatly improve a child’s developmental trajectory. The earlier autism treatments are started, the better the opportunity for the child to reach his or her full potential. Services for a child as young as 18 months can be provided and may continue throughout the individual’s life. It is important to match the child’s individual needs with potential autism therapies or strategies.

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Diagnosing Autism 
Spectrum Disorder

There are no medical tests for diagnosing ASD. An accurate autism diagnosis is based on observation of the individual’s social-communication skills, behavior, and developmental levels by professional psychologists, physicians, psychiatrists, or neurologists. These professionals may order various tests to rule out or identify other possible causes for the symptoms being exhibited.

Kelberman The Center of Excellence for Austim

Gathering information, such as a developmental history, from parents and other caregivers is very important in making an accurate diagnosis.

It is important to distinguish ASD from other diagnoses to ensure that   appropriate and effective educational and treatment supports can be provided as early as possible.