What Is Autism? Everything You Need to Know About Autism

What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental and neurological disorder that affects how a person interacts with others, learns, communicates, and behaves. This disorder can be diagnosed at all ages. However, it is still considered a “developmental disorder” due to the fact that symptoms usually appear during the first two years of life.

According to a guide created by the American Psychiatric Association and used by many healthcare providers to help diagnose mental disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) states that people with autism spectrum disorder will often show:

  • Repetitive behaviors and restricted interests
  • Difficulty in communicating and interacting with other people
  • Symptoms that will not only affect their ability to function in work or school but in many other areas of life as well

Autism is referred to as a “spectrum” disorder, as there is a wide variation in the severity and type of symptoms that a person will experience.

People of all races, genders, economic backgrounds, and ethnicities are diagnosed and can be diagnosed with ASD. However, even though ASD is considered to be a lifelong disorder, there are many available services and treatments that can improve a person’s symptoms and overall daily functioning.

It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that all children receive a screening for autism. If you are a caregiver, then you should discuss with your child’s health care provider about an ASD evaluation or screening.

How Common Is Autism in the United States?

The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) is a program that collects data in an attempt to better understand the number as well as the characteristics of children who have autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities throughout different areas of the U.S.

ADDM Network first began to report in 2000, and since then, it has been estimated that about one in a total of 44 children that are in the eight-year-old age group has been identified with ASD. This estimate is based on data that has been collected from special education and health records of children living in 11 communities in the United States in the year 2018.

The information above was collected on eight-year-old children for the reasoning that previous work has shown that most children with ASD will be identified for services by this age.

Other key findings from the ADDM Network’s most recent report concerning eight-year-old children include the following:

  • The number of children diagnosed with ASD ranged widely among the 11 communities, such as one in 26 children in California to one in 60 children in Missouri.
  • Compared to girls, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD.
  • ASD occurs among all types of ethnic, socioeconomic, and racial groups, and there is no overall difference in the number of Hispanic, White, Black, and Pacific Islander or Asian children identified with ASD.
  • Around 1/3 of children diagnosed with ASD that also had IQ scores available also had an intellectual disability.

How Does Autism Affect Children?

Usually, ASD will begin before the age of three and will last throughout a child’s life. However, symptoms of autism can improve over time. While some children tend to show symptoms of ASD within the first 12 months of life, other children’s ASD symptoms may not show up until 24 months of age or later.

Some children diagnosed with ASD will gain new skills and meet developmental milestones up until 18 to 24 months, they then lose the ability to gain skills or keep the skills they once had.

How Does Autism Affect Adults?

When children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder become adolescents or young adults, they may face difficulties in the development and maintenance of friendships, communication with fellow peers and other adults, and trouble with understanding what behaviors are expected of them during school or on the job.

Adults with ASD may also come to a healthcare provider’s attention because they may also experience conditions such as depression, anxiety, attention deficit, or on the contrary, hyperactivity disorder. These conditions tend to appear more in people with ASD than they do in people who do not have ASD.

What Are the Common Symptoms of Autism?

Interaction Skills and Social Communication

Interaction skills and social communication prove to be very challenging for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, as they tend to:

  • Avoid eye contact or cannot keep it
  • Do not respond to their name, even by nine months of age
  • Show no facial expressions like happy, angry, sad, or surprised by nine months of age
  • Do not engage in simple interactive games by 12 months of age
  • Uses little to no gestures by 12 months of age, like not waving goodbye
  • Refuses to share their interests with others by 15 months of age, for example, a child with ASD with not show you an object that they like
  • Does not point in an attempt to show you something interesting by 18 months of age
  • Takes little to no notice when others are upset or hurt by 24 months of age
  • Does not take notice of other children around or does not join them in play by 36 months of age
  • During play, they do not pretend to be something else, like a superhero or teacher, by 48 months of age
  • By 60 months of age, your child still does not dance, sing, or act for you

Repetitive or Restricted Interests and Behaviors

 Generally, people with ASD will have behaviors or interests that are somewhat unusual. These interests and behaviors are usually what set autism spectrum disorder apart from other conditions that are defined by problems with social interaction and communication only.

 Repetitive or restricted behaviors and interests that are related to ASD include:

  • The lining up of toys or other objects and will usually get upset when this order is changed
  • Repeating words and phrases over and over again – this is known as echolalia
  • Plays with their toys, in the same way, every single time
  • Always focuses on parts of the objects, such as the wheels
  • Gets very upset about minor changes
  • Needs to follow a certain routine or routines
  • Has obsessive interests
  • Spins themselves in circles, rocks their body, or flaps their hands
  • Has unfamiliar reactions to the way in which things smell, look, taste, feel, or sound

 Other Characteristics of Autism

 Most people who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder will also have other related characteristics:

  • Delayed movement skills
  • Impulsive, inattentive, or hyperactive behaviors
  • Seizure disorder or epilepsy
  • Delayed language skills
  • Unusual sleeping and eating habits
  • Cognitive or learning skills are delayed
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as constipation
  • Excessive worrying, anxiety, or stress
  • More fear than expected or the lack of fear

It is also important to note that, if a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, this does not mean that they have to have all or any of the behaviors that are listed as examples above. However, they will most likely have several of these behaviors.

What Treatment Options Exist?

 The current treatments that are available for ASD seek to reduce the symptoms that interfere with a person’s daily functioning and quality of life. ASD will affect each individual differently, meaning that individuals with ASD will have unique challenges and strengths, and, thus, different treatment needs. This is why treatment plans will often involve multiple professionals and will be catered to the specific individual.

Treatments for ASD can be given in health, community, education, as well as home settings, or they can be given in combination with these settings. It is very important that healthcare providers communicate effectively both with each other as well as the person with ASD and their family members. This is to ensure that treatment progress and goals are meeting their expectations.

 When a person with autism spectrum disorder exits from school and grows into adulthood, there are additional services available to help improve their health and daily functioning, as well as facilitate community and social engagement. Some may require support to continue their education, complete their job training, secure housing or transportation, and find employment opportunities.

The Different Types of Treatment

 As previously mentioned, there are several types of treatments available for people with ASD, and these treatments can be broken down into categories. However, you should be aware that some treatments will involve more than one approach:

  • Behavioral
  • Educational
  • Developmental
  • Pharmacological
  • Social-Relational
  • Complementary and Alternative
  • Psychological

What to Do If You Are Concerned

 As a parent or educator, you already possess the power to help a young child to learn and grow. This is why it is so important that you contact a child’s doctor or parent if you think a child may have autism spectrum disorder or if you are having any other concerns regarding the way in which a child acts, speaks, learns, or plays.

 If this is not enough and you are still concerned, then you can ask your child’s doctor to refer you to a specialist. A specialist is able to do a more in-depth evaluation of your child and make a diagnosis based on that; these specialists are:

  • Child neurologists
  • Developmental pediatricians
  • Child psychiatrists or psychologists

 You can also call your state’s public childhood system and request a free evaluation to find out if your child qualifies for services of intervention. Research has shown that early intervention services can improve a child’s development services significantly.

 In order to ensure your child is reaching their full potential, they must receive intervention services as soon as possible.

REST: Because it works

It’s time to put REST into your life. And take advantage of all of the benefits equine motion has to offer any time, any place. At Gait, we firmly believe it will be a powerful, rewarding, and effective tool for helping treat your special needs child, children, or adult.


Includes shipping and handling. Sales tax where applicable.

Orders will be processed in the sequence in which they were received.

Please allow 4 – 6 weeks for delivery.