Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)


The autism spectrum, a neurodevelopmental disorder, is a broad range of conditions characterized by deficits in the following: social communication and social interaction, speech, pragmatic language, and presence of restricted and repetitive behaviors. Impairments may be observed in joint attention, social exchange, and the use of verbal and nonverbal communication. One may observe inflexible adherence to routines; restricted interests; and hyper- and/or hypo-sensitivity to sensory input.

Since autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. People with autism may learn, think and problem-solve quite differently as abilities can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and may live entirely independently.

Communication is a social process at its core; therefore, communication partners are also impacted by ASD. It is important to involve the entire team. Treatment considers the whole range of service delivery models, including traditional pull-out/ classroom, home visits, private practice, community-based models, and collaborative consultation models. Service delivery focuses on natural learning environments and includes education and training of family members, teachers, peers, and other professionals.

Indicators of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3. Some associated development delays can appear even earlier. Often it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Research shows that early intervention leads to positive outcomes later in life for people with autism.

Early warning signs include:

  • no social smiling by 6 months
  • no one-word communications by 16 months
  • no two-word phrases by 24 months
  • no babbling, pointing, or meaningful gestures by 12 months
  • poor eye contact
  • not showing items or sharing interests
  • unusual attachment to one particular toy or object
  • not responding to sounds, voices, or name
  • loss of skills at any time

We encourage you to talk to your pediatrician about concerns. After an evaluation and a confirmed diagnosis, seeking a speech and language pathologist is an integral next step to building your team of support.