What is Autism: Is formally called autism spectrum disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder, characterized by deficits in social communication and social interaction, repetitive or restricted patterns of behaviors interest or activities. Based on these symptoms, children will be diagnosed by level, level 1 needing support to level 3 needing substantial support. On the other hand high functioning autism doesn't need as much support but can still struggle with everyday activities. Because Autism is a spectrum it can manifest different behaviors that vary differently for each person, for example some are nonspeaking, while others have proficient spoken language, interests and behaviors can vary as well. Although autism does not affect life expectancy, people with it have twice the mortality risk compared to the general population due to accidents. 

Although autism isn't curable, recognizing its symptoms early and getting treatment such as autism therapy can help children improve and even overcome some of the symptoms associated with autism. 


Resources for children with autism


According to the CDC, Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder | CDC

About 1 in 36 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder. ASD is more common among boys rating at 1 out of 54 than among girls whos rate is 1 for every 144.  In Bloomington-Normal about 456 children from the ages of birth to 18 are on the autism spectrum. The population of children in Bloomington-Normal is about 17,823, and 495 of those children have autism.

Image result for autism diagnosis in children by year https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html


Diagnosing autism can be difficult as it doesn't show up on any medical tests such as MRIs or blood scans. Instead doctors and psychologists have to observe a child's behavioral patterns as they develop. Autism can be detected as early as 18 months and sometimes younger, however getting diagnosed for ASD may not happen until adolescence or adulthood. There are three different methods for diagnosing and screening for ASD.

  1. Developmental Monitoring is an ongoing procedure that requires watching a child grow and determine if they child is hitting developmental milestones and skills that most children reach by a certain age. To observe these behaviors encouraging conversation between the child and engaging with them helps doctors understand if the child is meeting those milestones or not.

  2. Developmental Screening is a more formal approach to diagnosing children with autism but it takes a closer look at a child's development. This diagnosis requires a child to go to a well-visit at certain ages; during these visits a doctor or psychologist will go through a series of questions that will compare the child to others in the same age range. These questions can be about language development, movement, cognitive functions, as well as behavior and emotions.

  3. Developmental Diagnosis is a small test that does not diagnose a child with autism but can determine if that child is on the right development path or not. If the test recognizes a deficit in development then a formal evaluation is needed, this evaluation must be done by a child psychologist, speech-language pathologist, developmental pediatrician, or other trained specialists. Following this the specialist will observe the child, give it structured tests, ask caregivers or parents questions and possibly require filling out questionnaires. 


Restrictive / repetitive behaviors may include:

  1. Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people, Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors, Symptoms that affect their ability to function in school, work, and other areas of life. For more on this visit this podcast here.

A child stacking or lining things can be an early sign of autism

  1. Making little or inconsistent eye contact appearing not to look at or listen to people who are talking Infrequently sharing interest, emotion, or enjoyment of objects or activities (including infrequent pointing at or showing things to others  difficulties with the back and forth of conversation often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond, displaying facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s action difficulties adjusting behaviors to social situations difficulties sharing in imaginative play or in making friends
    • Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors, such as repeating words or phrases (a behavior called echolalia)
    • Having a lasting intense interest in specific topics, such as numbers, details, or facts
    • Showing overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects
    • Becoming upset by slight changes in a routine and having difficulty with transitions
    • Being more sensitive or less sensitive than other people to sensory input, such as light, sound, clothing, or temperature

Social interaction/communication

  1. Although issues with social interaction can appear in early childhood, some cases won't be clear until a child is diagnosed with autism: 

    • Challenges in social-emotional reciprocity (e.g., difficulty with conversation, sharing hobbies/interests with others, initiating social interactions, or responding when someone else initiates) 

    • Challenges in nonverbal communication (e.g., lack of eye contact, difficulty understanding nonverbal communication) 

    • Challenges in developing, maintaining, or understanding relationships (e.g., understanding appropriate behaviors in social environments, little interest in peers, trouble making and keeping friends) 


According with Dr. Susan Daniels designed National Autism Coordinator, there can be various factors of autism causes but the main factors are:

1. Studies genes can act together with aspects of their environment to affect development in ways that lead to ASD. 

2.Having a sibling with ASD.

3. Having older parents. 

4. Having certain genetic conditions (such as Down syndrome or Fragile X Syndrome. 

5. Having a very low birth weight. 


People with ASD can have other conditions that can widen the spectrum even further. These include:

  • Speech and language difficulties
  • Intellectual disability
  • Sleep problems
  • Attention problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Difficulties with fine and gross motor skills


Resources for children with autism:



"Data and Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder." National Institute of Mental Health Autism. April 2 202https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/autism-spectrum-disorder-asd

Autism Cases On the Rise. By Kathleen Doheny. Medically Reviewed by Louise Change, MD, On March 28, 2008  (webmd.com)https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/features/autism-rise