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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Submitted by CCPH on April 02, 2015 at 3:12pm.
Get Healthy Heights Columbia Community Partnership for Health

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can affect the way a person communicates and develops socially and behaviorally.

People with ASD look the same as other people, but may communicate, interact, and behave in ways that are different from most other people. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. They might repeat certain behaviors and prefer a routine, that is, they might not want change in their daily activities.  Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives while others need less.

Learn more about ASD Signs and Symptoms

What Causes ASD?
Autism Spectrum Disorder happens in all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic groups, but is almost five times more common in boys than girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1 in 68 children have ASD.

The causes of ASD are not all know, but there are likely many causes for multiple types of ASD. There may be many different factors that make a child more likely to have an Austism Spectrum Disorder, including environmental, biologic and genetic factors. Many studies have looked at whether there is a relationship between vaccines and autism spectrum disorder. To date, findings from research studies continue to show that vaccines are not related to  ASD.

What Does the Research Tell Us?
Most scientists agree that genes are one of the risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop ASD. Other risk factors for Autism Spectrum Disorder are:

  • Children  who have a sibling with ASD are at a higher risk of also having ASD.
  • ASD tends to occur more often in people who have some types of genetic conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis.
  • Taking the medications valproic acid and thalidomide during pregnancy have been linked with a higher risk of ASD.
  • There is some evidence that the most important time for developing ASD occurs before, during, and immediately after birth.
  • Children born to older parents are at greater risk for having ASD.

How is ASD Treated?
There is currently no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder, but research shows that early intervention treatment services can help a child’s development. Early intervention treatment services help children from birth to 3 years old (36 months) learn important skills. Services can include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others. It is important to talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child has ASD or other developmental problems.

Even if your child has not been diagnosed with an ASD, he or she may be eligible for early intervention treatment services. In New York these services are provided through the New York State Early Intervention Program.  In addition, treatment for other symptoms like speech delays does not need to wait for a formal ASD diagnosis by a doctor.

How is ASD Diagnosed?
There is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorders. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced health professional can be considered very reliable. However, most children are not formally diagnosis with ASD until much older, which means they may not get the early intervention treatments services they need.

What If I am Concerned My Child May Have ASD?
If you think your child might have ASD or you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts, contact your child’s doctor, and share your concerns.

If you or the doctor is still concerned, ask the doctor for a referral to a specialist who can do a more in-depth evaluation of your child. At the same time contact the New York State Early Intervention Program to request a free evaluation to find out if your child qualifies for early intervention services.  Research shows that early intervention services can greatly improve a child’s development and reach his or her full potential.

To find more information about the New York State Early Intervention Program click here

For more information on Autism Spectrum Disorder you can visit the CDC’s Autism Spectrum Disorder page here

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 25, 2015). Facts About ASD. Retrieved from:

We are hosting a Spanish health lecture on Autism on Wednesday, April 15th from 5:30pm-6:30pm. For more information see the flyer below.







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