Complex neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs communication and social skills in children. It also implies restrictive and repetitive activities, behaviors and interests. Autism Spectrum Disorder includes: autism, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.


Exact cause is unknown


Judging by the wide range of symptoms and level of severity, it is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors influence the disorder’s occurrence and development


Some genetic disorders are associated with ASD: Rett syndrome (postnatal neurological disorder that is characterized by small hands and feet and also slow head growth rate), fragile X syndrome (Martin-Bell syndrome, causes intellectual disabilities, behavioral and learning difficulties)


Possible environmental triggers: viral infections, air pollutants, pregnancy complications

Symptoms and signs

Social interaction, communication and behavior is impaired


Each child has different behavioral patterns and severity levels


ASD symptoms can appear from infancy to the first months or years of life


Withdrawn attitude




Loss of language skills that have been previously acquired


Symptoms regarding social interaction and communication skills:

Avoiding eye contact


No facial expressions


Not expressing emotions, feelings and apparently disregarding the ones of others


Preferring to play alone


Dislikes/avoids cuddling or holding


Not responding to his/her own name


Speaking difficulties: delayed speech, losing previously acquired skills, not speaking at all


Lacking conversational skills (staring a conversation only to request things)


Abnormal tone or rhythm (robot-like voice)


Repeating words or phrases but not understanding how and when to use them


Difficulty in understanding simple requests, questions, directions


Passive, aggressive or disruptive attitude when it comes to social interactions


Difficulties in developing and maintaining relationships


Inability to understand how social interaction works


Symptoms regarding behavioral patterns:

Repetitive movements: rocking, spinning, head-banging


Needs precise routines or rituals – becomes very disturbed at the smallest change in them




Dislikes and resists change


Coordination problems


Strange or exaggerated movements: walking on toes, clumsiness, rigidity


Sensitivity to light, noise, touch


Apparent high pain threshold


Lack of interest for imaginative or imitative play-time


Abnormal fixation/interest for an object or activity


Strange food preferences: only certain foods, of certain colors or textures


You should consider seeing a doctor if your child:

Does not mimic or respond to sounds/facial expressions by 9 months


Does not “baby talk” by 12 months


Does not say any word by 16 months


Does not say at least two-word sentences by 24 months


Loses communication or social skills suddenly, at any age


Diagnosis is established after observing delayed developmental signs at regular check-ups. It is based on symptom criteria as found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association)


Specialists: child psychologist, developmental pediatrician, pediatric neurologist


An ASD specialist may observe and ask about the child’s social interactions, manifestations, communication skills and give tests that assess language, speech, developmental level and social behavior


Genetic testing can be recommended to check for Fragile X syndrome


There is no miraculous, instant cure for ASD, nor a treatment course that can fit the needs of every child


It takes time, patience and help from specialists – the focus is to minimize symptoms and encourage normal development and learning


Educational therapies: specialized, well-structured educational programs


Behavior and communication therapies: programs focused on dealing with behavioral and communication issues and teaching new skills


Family therapies: parents and family members are “trained” to interact with children with ASD in a way that encourages the development of social, communicational and behavioral skills


Creative therapies: art therapies, music therapy


Medication – only to keep certain symptoms under control: antidepressants (for anxiety), antipsychotics (for severe behavioral issues)

  • Children and adults with ASD do not care about others


    Children with ASD cannot acquire social skills


    No adult with ASD can lead a normal, successful life


    ASD is caused by vaccines


    The main cause of ASD is represented by unfit and unloving parents


    All children with ASD are good at math and at memorizing information


(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014)

Fastest growing developmental disorder in the US


Boys seem to be five times more likely to develop ASD


Prevalence in the US: 1 in 68 births


3.5 million Americans live with ASD


Around 700,000 people in the UK are affected by ASD


Global prevalence: 62 cases/100,000 people (2012)

Did you know?

Many “researchers” have expressed their opinion on how to treat ASD, but not all of their suggestions have been efficient… or safe for that matter. One example is chelation therapy which consists in removing mercury and other heavy metals from the body. The aim is to minimize ASD symptoms through this process, but no precise link has been identified between mercury and ASD. The gruesome result is that some children have died after this course of treatment.


Intelligence varies from child to child. Most children that are diagnosed with ASD show signs of lower than normal intelligence, but this is not necessarily the general conclusion as a good part of children with ASD have normal to high intelligence (they are quick learners but have trouble applying theoretical concepts to everyday life). A small number of ASD cases are considered geniuses in specific areas such as music, mathematics, art.


Parents that already have a child with ASD have a 20% risk of having another child with the same disorder.


Apparently, there seems to be a link between the parents’ age and ASD occurrence


Autism did not clinically exist until 1944


World Autism Awareness Day: April 2


Famous people with autism: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Tim Burton, Stanley Kubrick, Andy Warhol, Lewis Carroll, Susan Boyle