Autism Center of Tulsa

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What Is Autism?

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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects a child’s behavior, social, and communication skills. ASD can differ in terms of when the symptoms start, how severe they are and their exact nature. The disorder is considered to be a “spectrum” because the severity of symptoms ranges from mild to moderate to severe and are an array of varied but similar entities.

Many people with ASD have unusual ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to different sensations. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASD vary, from gifted to severely challenged.

Autism spectrum disorders are lifelong conditions with no known cure. However, autism is treatable. Children with ASD can progress developmentally and learn new skills.  Some children and adults may improve so much that they no longer meet the criteria for ASD. 

Autism Facts

How Common Is ASD?

Autism spectrum disorder affects an estimated 1 in 68 children (ADDM, 2010). 1 in 42 boys are affected, many more boys than girls. The reported number of children with ASD has increased dramatically since studies conducted in the 1980s and 1990s, when rates were reported as 1 in 10,000 and 1 in 500 children. The reason for the increase is unclear. The observed increase of autism cases of cannot be explained by the expansion of criteria used to make the diagnosis, however. (UCMIND Institute, 2002).

What Are the Symptoms of ASD?

No two children with ASD have the exact same symptoms. The number of symptoms and how severe they are can vary greatly. If you are concerned about your child’s development and would like to review “red flags”, see the information provided by the national CDC developmental disabilities campaign “Learn the Signs. Act Early” and the organization “First Signs” here. Remember that not all children who display behaviors below will eventually be diagnosed with an ASD. The following are examples of how a child with ASD may act:

Social Differences

  • Doesn’t keep eye contact or makes very little eye contact
  • Doesn’t look at objects or events parents are looking at or pointing to
  • Doesn’t point to objects or events to get parents to look at them
  • Doesn’t bring objects to show to parents just to share his interest
  • Doesn’t often have appropriate facial expressions
  • Unable to perceive what others might be thinking or feeling by looking at their facial expressions

Communication Differences

  • Doesn’t say single words by 15 months or two-word phrases by 24 months
  • Repeats exactly what others say without understanding its meaning (echolalia)
  • Doesn’t respond to name being called, but does respond to other sounds (like a car horn or a cat’s meow)
  • Refers to self as “you” and others as “I” (pronominal reversal)
  • Often doesn’t seem to want to communicate
  • Doesn’t start or can’t continue a conversation
  • Doesn’t use toys or other objects to represent people or real life in pretend play
  • May have a good rote memory, especially for numbers, songs, TV jingles, or a specific topic
  • Loses language milestones, usually between the ages of 15 to 24 months in a few children (regression)

Behavioral Differences

  • Rocks, spins, sways, twirls fingers, or flaps hands (stereotypic behavior)
  • Likes routines, order, and rituals
  • Obsessed with a few activities, doing them repeatedly during the day
  • Plays with parts of toys instead of the whole toy (for example, spinning the wheels of a toy truck)
  • May be very sensitive or not sensitive at all to smells, sounds, lights, textures and touch

Concerns About Development

The CDC has launched a campaign to help parents and professionals better recognize signs of a developmental delay. Called “Learn the Signs, Act Early,” it includes general developmental milestones to help measure your child’s development against peers; information about developmental screening tools, and much more. To visit the site, click here.

The organization First Signs, Inc. is dedicated to the early identification of and intervention for children with autism and other related disorders. Its website provides several resources, including healthy development checklists, information about screening and referral, and more. To visit the site, click here.

Any concern with your child's development should be communicated to the pediatrician as soon as possible.

If you are concerned about your child’s development and your child is under 3 years old, seek a free educational evaluation from Sooner Start, Oklahoma’s early intervention program for families of infants and toddlers who have or are suspected of having developmental delays.

If your child is 3 years of age or older and you are concerned about your child’s development, seek a free educational evaluation from your local public education agency (school district) Child Find office.