Autism is a developmental disorder. It impairs an individual’s ability to interact socially, communicate clearly and effectively, and behave appropriately. Autism is one of five disorders in a group known as autism spectrum disorders or pervasive development disorders.

Social Interaction
Impairments can include: 

  • difficulty using nonverbal behaviors such as eye-gaze, facial expressions, body postures, and gestures.
  • difficulty forming peer relationships.
  • difficulty seeking out others for the purpose of sharing enjoyment, interests, or achievements.
  • difficulty with the “back-and-forth” nature of relationships for social or emotional purposes.

Communication

Impairments can include:

  • delay or lack of development of spoken language.
  • difficulty starting or maintaining a conversation.
  • use of stereotyped (“repetitive, often seemingly driven, and nonfunctional,”) or idiosyncratic (odd or peculiar) language.
  • lack of variety and spontaneity in make-believe play or social imitative play.

Behavior
Impairments can include: 

  • being preoccupied with an interest—intensity or focus is abnormal.
  • being INflexible and sticking to specific routines or rituals that may not be “purposeful.”
  • using stereotyped or repetitive motor movements such as hand or finger flapping or twisting or whole body movements.
  • preoccupation with parts of objects.

Autism affects individuals of all races and ethnicities. It affects boys more often than girls. Autism seems to run in families, indicating a possible genetic link to the disorder. This disorder occurs in about 1 out of every 110 children in the United States (according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The symptoms of autism are often noticeable before age three. Many specialists believe autism is a brain disorder. It is best to begin treatment of symptoms of autism early in an individual’s life. Different specialists, including speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, or psychologist, along with parents/caregivers, can work together to help develop and implement intervention plans. Goals and objectives are to improve social interaction, communication, and/or behavior for better functioning in daily activities at school, home, and in the community.