Together for Autism

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability that prevents individuals from properly understanding and responding to what they see, hear, and sense. This may result in severe problems of social relationships, communication and behaviour.

What Causes ASD?
The cause of ASD is still unknown. It is a neurological disorder, present from (or even before) birth, which affects the way the brain uses information. Some research suggests a physical problem affecting those parts of the brain that process language and information coming in from the senses. There may be some imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain: genetic factors may sometimes be involved. ASD may indeed result from a combination of several “causes”. ASD is not caused by factors in the child’s psychological environment.

How common is ASD?
ASD is considered one of the major developmental disabilities, occurring in one in every 200 births (includes autism, PDD-NOS and Asperger’s syndrome), (National Institute of Health, 1998).

Who is affected with ASD?
ASD is distributed throughout the world among all races, nationalities, cultures, and social classes. It is most common in males, with a ratio of males to females of 3 or 4 to 1.

What are the features found in a child with ASD?
Below are some examples of each of the three key features. Not all examples will be present in an individual with ASD, but you will find all three features present. (Reference unknown)

Impairments in social interaction skills

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Lacks imitation or demonstrates delayed imitation
  • Shows little or no interest in others
  • Treats people like objects or tools
  • Demonstrates limited turn-taking skills
  • Does not play with other children
  • Has limited or unusual emotional responses
  • Responds indifferently or negatively to physical affection
  • Does not initiate social interaction; shows little or no interest in making friends
  • Demonstrates social awkwardness
  • Is unresponsive to facial cues
  • Lacks awareness of feeling in self and others
  • Lacks understanding of society’s conventions or rules

Impairments in Communication Skills
  • Limited expressive language
  • Immediate and /or delayed echolalia
  • Unusual tone or rhythm of speech (prosody)
  • Limited use of appropriate gestures to communicate
  • Poor language comprehension
  • Improper use of pronouns
  • Makes strange or irrelevant comments and /or uses invented words (neologisms)
  • Frequently interrupts others
  • Fails to initiate and/ or maintain conversation
  • Has great difficulty understanding abstract language
Restricted, Repetitive and Stereotyped behaviour Interests and Activities
  • Excessive need for sameness
  • Strong adherence to routines
  • Unreasonable insistence on following routines
  • Shows marked distress over changes in trivial things
  • Preoccupied with one or only a few narrow interests
  • Gets stuck on a particular topic
  • Repeats lists of items of facts
  • Preoccupied with decoding text
  • Forms an attachment to unusual objects
  • Twirls objects, rips strips of paper
  • Lines up objects in a particular order
  • Fascination with repeated moving objects back and forth
  • Unusual body movements such as finger-flicking, rocking, staring at objects from unusual angles
*Taken from “Children Diagnosed with Autism: What to Expect and Where to Get Help” Reproduced with permission, © Autism Ontario 2003.
“Children Diagnosed with Autism: what to expect and where to get help ” is an Autism Ontario publication that contains strategies and information for Ontario families and Care providers. This manual contains useful information that can be applied to the school age child with autism. It’s contents gives direction, resources and information about where to go after a child with autism has been diagnosed. Find out how to get your own copy!