What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a general term for a group of complex disorders of brain development. The ASD umbrella includes individuals with autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive development disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.

Signs of autism begin to emerge between the ages of 2 and 3 years of age. If you are worried your child may have Autism, see our developmental checklist and try the MCAHT-R screening tool for Autism. The screening tool is not intended to give a diagnosis of Autism. It can give an indication there may be a developmental delay.

Please see your family practitioner who can help your further. Early diagnosis is important. Research shows children who receive early intervention can have improved outcomes. The latest statistics from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention found Autism Spectrum Disorder rates are 1 in 68. This estimate is roughly 30% higher from 2010 when the rates were reported at 1 in 88.

What are the statistics?
The rates of autism are higher in boys than in girls: 1 in 42 boys than 1:189 girls. To put these rates into perspective, more children will be diagnosed with autism than cancer, aids, cystic fibrosis combined.

Autism rates are being reported the same almost all around the world. The diagnosis of Autism is not specific to any race , religion , culture or socio-economic status. However, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention reported white children are more likely to be identified as having ASD than are black or Hispanic children.2 Levels of intellectual ability vary greatly among children with autism, ranging from severe intellectual challenges to average or above average intellectual ability. The study found that almost half of children identified with ASD have average or above average intellectual ability (an IQ above 85) compared to a third of children a decade ago.

What are the difficulties? 

The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are sometimes known as the 'triad of impairments'. They are:

a. difficulty with social communication

b. difficulty with social interaction

c. difficulty with social imagination.

It is important to start early intervention as soon as possible. If you suspect your child has any issues in the areas of play, speech, communications, motor functions or any other developmental areas, don’t delay, take action right away.

Getting help immediately can be difficult as navigating the healthcare system , and educational systems is not easy. Road blocks to access to services can make things sometimes impossible. Options of private therapy is expensive and with myriad of information on the internet sometimes it is difficult to know what to do and where to start. Your not alone. Don’t give up. Don’t get disheartened. Browse through Able2learn Programs to get started.


Credit: The following information was taken from website.



Regression of any kind is a serious autism warning sign

Some children with autism spectrum disorder start to develop communication skills and then regress, usually between 12 and 24 months. For example, a child who was communicating with words such as “mommy” or “up” may stop using language entirely, or a child may stop playing social games he or she used to enjoy such as peek-a-boo, patty cake, or waving “bye-bye.” Any loss of speech, babbling, gestures, or social skills should be taken very seriously, as regression is a major red flag for autism.


Signs and symptoms of autism in babies and toddlers


If autism is caught in infancy, treatment can take full advantage of the young brain’s remarkable plasticity. Although autism is hard to diagnose before 24 months, symptoms often surface between 12 and 18 months. If signs are detected by 18 months of age, intensive treatment may help to rewire the brain and reverse the symptoms.


The earliest signs of autism involve the absence of normal behaviours—not the presence of abnormal ones—so they can be tough to spot. In some cases, the earliest symptoms of autism are even misinterpreted as signs of a “good baby,” since the infant may seem quiet, independent, and undemanding. However, you can catch warning signs early if you know what to look for.


Some autistic infants don't respond to cuddling, reach out to be picked up, or look at their mothers when being fed.


Early signs


Your baby or toddler doesn't:


  • Make eye contact, such as looking at you when being fed or smiling when being smiled at

  • Respond to his or her name, or to the sound of a familiar voice

  • Follow objects visually or follow your gesture when you point things out

  • Point or wave goodbye, or use other gestures to communicate

  • Make noises to get your attention

  • Initiate or respond to cuddling or reach out to be picked up

  • Imitate your movements and facial expressions

  • Play with other people or share interest and enjoyment

  • Notice or care if you hurt yourself or experience discomfort


Developmental red flags

The following delays warrant an immediate evaluation by your child’s pediatrician:

By 6 months: No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions

By 9 months: No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions

By 12 months: Lack of response to name

By 12 months: No babbling or “baby talk”

By 12 months: No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving

By 16 months: No spoken words

By 24 months: No meaningful two-word phrases that don’t involve imitating or repeating


Signs and symptoms in older children


As children get older, the red flags for autism become more diverse. There are many warning signs and symptoms, but they typically revolve around impaired social skills, speech and language difficulties, non-verbal communication difficulties, and inflexible behavior.


Signs of social difficulties


  • Appears disinterested or unaware of other people or what’s going on around them

  • Doesn’t know how to connect with others, play, or make friends

  • Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled

  • Doesn’t play "pretend" games, engage in group games, imitate others, or use toys in creative ways

  • Has trouble understanding feelings or talking about them

  • Doesn’t seem to hear when others talk to him or her

  • Doesn't share interests or achievements with others (drawings, toys)


Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorder. Many kids on the autism spectrum seem to prefer to live in their own world, aloof and detached from others.



Signs of speech and language difficulties


  • Speaks in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch (e.g. ends every sentence as if asking a question)

  • Repeats the same words or phrases over and over, often without communicative intent

  • Responds to a question by repeating it, rather than answering it

  • Uses language incorrectly (grammatical errors, wrong words) or refers to him or herself in the third person

  • Has difficulty communicating needs or desires

  • Doesn’t understand simple directions, statements, or questions

  • Takes what is said too literally (misses undertones of humor, irony, and sarcasm)


Children with autism spectrum disorder have difficulty with speech and language. Often, they start talking late.


Signs of nonverbal communication difficulties


  • Avoids eye contact

  • Uses facial expressions that don't match what he or she is saying

  • Doesn’t pick up on other people’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures

  • Makes very few gestures (such as pointing). May come across as cold or “robot-like.”

  • Reacts unusually to sights, smells, textures, and sounds. May be especially sensitive to loud noises. Can also be unresponsive to people entering/leaving, as well as efforts by others to attract the child’s attention.

  • Abnormal posture, clumsiness, or eccentric ways of moving (e.g., walking exclusively on tiptoe)


Children with autism spectrum disorder have trouble picking up on subtle nonverbal cues and using body language. This makes the "give-and-take" of social interaction very difficult.


Signs of inflexibility


  • Follows a rigid routine (e.g., insists on taking a specific route to school)

  • Has difficulty adapting to any changes in schedule or environment (e.g., throws a tantrum if the furniture is rearranged or bedtime is at a different time than usual)

  • Unusual attachments to toys or strange objects such as keys, light switches, or rubber bands. Obsessively lines things up or arranges them in a certain order.

  • Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest, often involving numbers or symbols (e.g., memorizing and reciting facts about maps, train schedules, or sports statistics)

  • Spends long periods watching moving objects such as a ceiling fan, or focusing on one specific part of an object such as the wheels of a toy car

  • Repeats the same actions or movements over and over again, such as flapping hands, rocking, or twirling (known as self-stimulatory behavior, or “stimming”). Some researchers and clinicians believe that these behaviors may soothe children with autism more than stimulate them.


Children with autism spectrum disorder are often restricted, inflexible, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests.


Common restricted and repetitive behaviors


  • Hand flapping
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Spinning in a circle
  • Finger flicking
  • Head banging
  • Staring at lights
  • Moving fingers in front of the eyes
  • Snapping fingers
  • Tapping ears
  • Scratching
  • Lining up toys
  • Spinning objects
  • Wheel spinning
  • Watching moving objects
  • Flicking light switches on and off
  • Repeating words or noises