Many parents and caregivers start their autism journey with one simple question: what is autism? The answer to this question is not so simple. To help, the MeBe team of Board Certified Behavior Analysts provides insight for families seeking more information about autism spectrum disorder in children.

Additionally, check out this short video for more answers to frequently asked questions about autism.

What is autism spectrum disorder in children?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder that results in differences and delays in the areas of social skills and communication skills, and includes the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviors. The traits of autism often appear in the first three years of a child’s life, which is why autism is also referred to as a developmental disorder.

When can autism be diagnosed?

Many children with autism begin showing traits at a young age. Currently, the age at which a child can be diagnosed with autism is 18 months, although some traits can be spotted at an even younger age.

How is autism diagnosed in children?

Children are often diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder with a variety of assessments and screening tools, including the M-CHAT and ADOS-2. These tools score behaviors across the areas of communication, socialization, and repetitive behaviors.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that every child is screened for autism during 18 month and 24 month well checks with their child’s pediatrician.

If you are concerned about your child’s development, it is important that you discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor. Write down your observations of your child’s behavior, take videos to show your doctor, and document your child’s developmental milestones.

Bring these notes and videos with you to your child’s appointment to help you discuss your concerns with the doctor. Your doctor can help you navigate the next steps of getting a full developmental evaluation for your child, if needed.

Can a child have multiple diagnoses?

It is very common for kids diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder to have co-occurring disorders, such as ADHD, apraxia of speech, sensory processing disorder, or a seizure disorder.

What are the early signs of autism in children?

Children with autism may have challenges or delays in social skills, communication skills, and emotional / behavioral skills.

For example, some common characteristics include: not imitating peers, making little to no eye contact, having delayed speech, having difficulty following instructions, having difficulty regulating their emotions, and having repetitive behaviors.

It’s important to remember that each child is unique and that not all children with autism will display the same characteristics.

Click here to read our full article about common characteristics and traits associated with autism.

What is the treatment for autism?

Children with autism may benefit from therapies such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Occupational Therapy, and Speech and Language Therapy. Early intervention ABA programs support young children with foundational skills such as communication, social/emotional awareness, play, cognition, and self help.

For more frequently asked questions about autism, watch the MeBe ABA: 101 video series, available in English and Spanish.

If you’re ready to learn more about autism therapy services at MeBe, contact us today.

For helpful tips from the MeBe therapy team, check out @mebefamily on Instagram and Facebook and visit the MeBe Family YouTube channel.