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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

blocks autism spectrum disorder stimuli toddler child

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a common condition with a broad range of presentation affecting 1 in 44 children. The cause of ASD is not known, but it is a developmental disorder impairing a child’s ability to interact and communicate socially. Children with ASD have a wide variability in the severity and quality of their language dysfunction. In some children with ASD language may be non-existent (no attempts to share thoughts). Others may communicate using physical gestures without accompanying eye contact or spoken words (e.g. child taking an adult by the hand to lead them to an object or activity). Other children may be speaking only in single words or phrases. Receptive language may appear delayed relative to expressive language (the child may not respond to the calling of their names). “Better developed” expressive language skills may be non-functional (repeating previously heard statements/phrases) also known as echolalia.


A second behavioral feature of ASD is restricted and repetitive behaviors and activities, e.g. flapping, inflexibility/difficulty to the change of routines –adherence to nonfunctional routines, such as lining up toys etc. Another feature of ASD is the unusual reaction to sensory stimuli.


The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends that all children be screened for ASD at 18 months and 24 months. We use the M-CHAT to screen at these ages and refer children at risk for early intervention.


Most of the time children with ASD do not have delays in gross motor and fine motor skills, so they may not be identified in the first year of life. Early intervention is key, even if diagnosis is uncertain. Studies show that with early/timely intervention many children do very well and may no longer meet the criteria for an ASD diagnosis later in childhood.