Autism Defined

What is Autism?
Autism is classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (APA, 1994). It is defined by symptoms appearing before the age of three, which reflect delayed or abnormal development in three areas:

Language Development - doesn’t understand or say many words, repeats things (“echoes”) or uses the third person.

Social Skills - not interested in peers, no imitative play, poor eye contact, doesn’t respond when spoken to, doesn’t show/point to things.

Behavioral Repertoire - repetitively plays with objects in a specific way or insists that things be done the same way or engages in self stimulatory actions such as hand flapping, staring at hands or fingers or smelling things.

Many children with autism are also cognitively delayed, but the presence and severity of specific symptoms and degree of mental retardation is quite variable. Aside from sharing problems in the above areas, children with autism are quite different from each other. Some are affectionate, some do have pretend play, some speak fairly well, and some do very little self-stimulating.

About Early Social Delays
  • Parents may be concerned that there is "something different" by the age of two
  • Language development is usually, but not always, behind that of peers
  • The child likes to do his own thing. He/She may watch others but usually does not interact
  • Plays with toys in unusual or repetitive ways; pretend play is limited
  • Some children seem aloof and are difficult to engage; others are affectionate, even clingy
  • Some children engage in odd mannerisms but many children under three do not


If you believe your child may have autism, download the following quiz:

About Early Social Delays

Help is Available
Children with social and language difficulties share some similarities with those with attention problems, learning problems, developmental language problems, and autism spectrum disorders.

Before the 1990's, these children did not receive much help and many of them did not get much better. Now, research shows that about half of even the more severely affected children can improve enough to be like their friends and succeed in school.

During the toddler and preschool years, children are able to learn rapidly. For this reason, children with social and language difficulties show much greater improvement if they begin treatment before age five and receive intensive treatment (35 to 40 hours per week)

For more information about how to apply for funding and services in your county,
contact our Intake Department today.