Autism Spectrum Disorder is a disability that affects normal development. It is a “spectrum disorder” because its impact on development can range from mild to severe. The areas of development most affected are social interaction and communication skills, difficulties with verbal and non-verbal communication, and leisure play. Current statistics estimate that autism affects 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys, 1 in 189 girls) in the US alone.

A person with autism may show signs of the following characteristics:

  • Be non-verbal or have very limited verbal abilities.
  • Resist change.
  • Use gestures to express needs rather than words.
  • Exhibit inappropriate laughing or giggling.
  • Cry for no apparent reason.
  • Repeat words/phrases instead of giving a normal response.
  • Prefer to be alone.
  • Have difficulty mixing with others.
  • Have tantrums—display extreme distress for no apparent reason.
  • Make little or no eye contact.
  • Be sensitive to touch, not like hugging/cuddling.
  • Not respond to normal teaching methods.
  • Obsessively attach to objects.
  • Show no real fear or sense of danger.
  • Be over- or under-sensitive to pain.
  • Have awkward gross/fine motor skills.
  • Not respond to verbal cues (as if deaf).
  • Be sensitive to sound, or bright lights.
  • Exhibit self-stimulating behavior: hand flapping, finger flicking, and body rocking.
  • Not be able to make eye contact.
  • Become anxious in new situations.
  • Not understand consequences of actions.
  • Have difficulty remembering facts or details of circumstances.

Helpful Hints for Interactions with Individuals with ASD 

  • Use simple language; speak slowly and clearly.
  • Use concrete terms and ideas.
  • Repeat simple questions, allowing time (10-15 seconds) for a response.
  • Proceed slowly; give praise and encouragement.
  • Do not attempt to stop self-stimulating behavior physically.

Remember: Each individual with autism is unique and may act or react differently!

 Information compiled from the Autism Society of America and Autism Speaks websites, and other sources.