Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD, is a developmental disability that affects one’s ability to learn, communicate, and understand social interactions. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 44 children in the U.S. were affected by ASD in 2018. There is no cure, but prompt therapy tailored to one’s needs can help minimize and manage symptoms.

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder


Indications of ASD typically began to manifest around the age of 2 or 3, though some developmental delays can be identified as early as 18 months. Research has shown that the earlier the intervention, the higher the chance of a positive outcome later in life, so it’s important to be aware of what to look out for.

Developmental Signs of ASD:

  • Does not show facial expressions by 9 months of age
  • Does not point to demonstrate interest by 18 months of age
  • Does not play with other children by 3 years of age
  • Does not know how to pretend by 4 years of age
  • Does not sing or dance by 5 years age

Repetitive Behavioral Signs

  • Lines up toys and objects
  • Repeats words or phrases
  • Upset by minor changes
  • Obsessive interests
  • Strict routines

Miscellaneous Signs

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Delayed cognitive skills, including language
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Hyperactivity
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorder
  • Gastrointestinal issues


There are three main methods of screening a child for autism:

Developmental Monitoring

This is the most basic level of screening. It involves the ongoing process of watching a child grow and develop. Parents should be observing their child for developmental milestones in learning and behavior. There are many resources online that can be used to aid in this process. They can tell you at what age certain skills and abilities typically develop.

Developmental Screening

This is the next level up in screening.  It’s more formal and takes a closer look at developmental milestones, especially at 9, 18, and 30 months of age. It’s performed by professionals in the healthcare or community setting.

Developmental Diagnosis

If development does not appear to be on the right track, a formal evaluation can be performed by a trained specialist such as a developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, or occupational therapist. The child may be given structured tests to evaluate strengths and weaknesses in different areas. This is the most extensive form of screening for ASD.


As of 2013, the American Psychiatric Association no longer recommends that healthcare professionals classify autism into subtypes. Instead, Autism Spectrum Disorder is used as an umbrella term, and categorization is based on the amount of support someone requires. The range is from level 1 to level 3, with level 3 autistic patients requiring substantial support to live their lives.

Types of treatment:

  • Behavioral: Reinforcement of desired behaviors and discouragement of undesired ones. Widely accepted as an effective form of treatment.
  • Developmental: Focuses on improving specific skill sets such as language.
  • Educational: Treatment in a classroom setting based on consistency and visual learning.
  • Social-Relational: An approach that highlights improving social skills and emotional bonds.
  • Pharmacological: There is no medication that treats the core of ASD, but some medications can help curb symptoms and ease related medical conditions.

For more information on ASD and to set up an appointment to speak with us at Pandora’s House Psychiatry, click here. We’re dedicated to serving our community with diligent psychiatric care, emphasizing sensitivity, understanding, and trust.