People around the nation have been asked to “Light it up Blue” during the month of April for national Autism Awareness month.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.
A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.
Signs and symptoms
People with ASD often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.
Children or adults with ASD might:
not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)
not look at objects when another person points at them
have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
avoid eye contact and want to be alone
have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to
appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)
repeat actions over and over again
have trouble adapting when a routine changes
have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)
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. Specialists who can do a more in-depth evaluation and make a diagnosis include:
Developmental Pediatricians (doctors who have special training in child development and children with special needs)
Child Psychologists or Psychiatrists
At the same time, call your state’s public early childhood system to request a free evaluation to find out if your child qualifies for intervention services. This is sometimes called a Child Find evaluation. You do not need to wait for a doctor’s referral or a medical diagnosis to make this call.
Where to call for a free evaluation from the state depends on your child’s age:
If your child is not yet 3 years old, contact your local early intervention system.
You can find the right contact information for your state by calling the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) at 919-962-2001.
If your child is 3 years old or older, contact your local public school system.
Even if your child is not yet old enough for kindergarten or enrolled in a public school, call your local elementary school or board of education and ask to speak with someone who can help you have your child evaluated.
If you’re not sure who to contact, call the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) at 919-962-2001.