Overview of Autism

What is Autism?

Autism is a complex, whole body disorder which affects areas of the brain involving speech production, sensory processing, social communication and attention. Current statistics how that 1 in 91 children in the United States is affected with some form of Autism.

Common signs of Autism:

  1. Lack of speech or babbling before 18 months of age
  2. Normal development followed by a regression anywhere from 18-26 months of age
  3. Does not respond to own name – appears to be deaf
  4. Hyperfocus on a particular object(s) to the exclusion of everything else
  5. Obsessive tendencies such as spinning, lining things up, stacking
  6. Scripted language that is not meaningful
  7. Hypersensitivity to loud noises, bright lights, large crowds
  8. Hand flapping, flicking fingers in front of eyes, rocking back and forth
  9. Does not understand social rules
  10. Lack of eye contact

Why it’s called the Autism “Spectrum”
Autistic symptoms can vary widely from one child to another. One child may be completely non-verbal, while another child is very verbal and highly intelligent, but can not form friendships and doesn’t understand the rules of social communication (turn taking while talking to someone else, reading another person’s body language, standing too close to someone, difficulty understanding inferences).

The following diagnoses fall under the Autism Spectrum:

  1. Asperger Syndrome
  2. Pervasive Development Disorder – None Other Specified (PDD-NOS)
  3. Autism

Is there a cure?
Currently, there is no known cure for autism. With a comprehensive program, our children can get better – some to the point where they can function independently. When we say “comprehensive program”, we mean whatever it takes to help your child progress. This kind of program can include traditional therapies (speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy), therapeutic listening programs, biomedical treatments, social skills programs, hippotherapy – any kind of therapy that will benefit the child’s individual profile.

Early Detection, Early Intervention is CRITICAL
Acknowledging and identifying your child’s lack of typical development before the age of two can have a positive impact on the quality of life for the entire family.  Research shows that children who are identified as having a developmental disorder before the age of two and undergo intensive, high quality therapies early in life are more likely to be caught up with their peers by Kindergarten.

The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (MCHAT) is a series of questions that the caregiver can answer in order to determine if more extensive testing needs to be done. The MCHAT is only a guideline – it is not used to diagnose any disorder. If the scoring of this questionnaire alarms you, we urge you to contact your pediatrician or family physician and ask for a referral to a psychologist who is knowledgeable in Autism for more comprehensive testing.

You can visit our Autism Resources page to get information on where to get a diagnosis in Northwest Indiana. If your child is under the age of three, we recommend you contact the First Steps office to set up an appointment for an evaluation.