Center for Autism and Related Disorders
Center for Autism & Related Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)


Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder marked by impaired social interaction, limited communication, behavioral challenges, and a limited range of activities and interests.

Autism spectrum disorder has been estimated to affect 1 out of every 68 children in the United States and is five times more common in boys than in girls. Children with autism can show a wide variety of behavioral symptoms, from failure to develop appropriate peer relationships to a delay in or a total lack of spoken language. For children who do speak, there may be a repetitive use of language or a delay in the ability to sustain a conversation with others.

Symptoms of autism can also include hyperactivity, short attention span, impulsivity, aggressiveness, self-injurious behavior, and temper tantrums. Evidence-based autism treatment promotes the development of social and communication skills and minimizes behaviors that interfere with functioning and learning. Intensive, sustained evidence-based autism treatment can increase an individual’s ability to acquire language, learn, function in the community, and fulfill his/her potential.


The presentation and severity of symptoms vary widely among children with ASD. For some children, early signs of ASD may be observed by age 12 months or earlier.

    Some common signs and symptoms of ASD include:
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Not responding appropriately to greetings
  • Difficulty initiating and maintaining conversations with others
  • Not responding appropriately to others’ gestures and facial expressions
  • Difficulty using gestures and facial expressions appropriately
  • Appearing to be unaware of others’ feelings
  • Not engaging in pretend play
  • Exhibiting a preference for playing alone
  • Repeating sounds, words, or phrases out of context
  • Becoming distressed by minor changes in routines
  • Performing repetitive movements, such as hand-flapping or rocking
  • Playing with toys in unusual ways, for instance spinning them or lining them up
  • Exhibiting unusually strong attachments to particular objects
  • Limiting conversations to very specific topics
  • Exhibiting oversensitivity to sounds or textures
  • Appearing indifferent to pain
  • Experiencing delays or plateaus in skill development
  • Losing previously acquired skills
  • Displaying challenging behaviors, such as aggression, tantrums, and self-injury


Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to optimizing outcomes for individuals affected by autism.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends universal screening for autism at 18 and 24 months. In most states, a diagnosis of autism may be provided by licensed psychologists or medical doctors. While signs of autism can be evident in a child as young as 6-12 months old, a definitive diagnosis of autism is typically not made until a child is at least 18 months old.

If you have concerns about your child’s development, express your concerns immediately to your child’s pediatrician and request a referral to a specialist who can perform more thorough assessments.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the most widely accepted reference used for the classification and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The most recent edition (DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) redefined the diagnostic criteria for ASD, which was previously regarded as three distinct diagnoses (i.e., autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder—not otherwise specified, and Asperger’s disorder). The DSM-5 classifies ASD as a single disorder characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction in addition to restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with ASD in the United States.

The incidence of ASD is about 30% higher than the previously estimated rate of 1 in 88 reported in 2012. The factors contributing to increases in reported rates of ASD are not fully understood. While increased rates may be partially explained by improved screening and diagnostic practices, researchers are also exploring the roles of various environmental and genetic risk factors. CDC statistics reveal that ASD is present across all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups. In addition, boys are nearly 5 times more likely to be affected by ASD than girls.


Applied behavior analysis(ABA) is the only empirically validated treatment for ASD.

Based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA), IBI is conducted at a high intensity, typically between 30 and 40 hours per week, for multiple years. Evidence suggests that greater treatment intensity leads to superior outcomes. Evidence also indicates that IBI is more effective if initiated in early development; however, services initiated at any age are beneficial for the acquisition of valuable skills.

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