Employee & Community Health

Autism Spectrum Disorder

4/28/2016 by Dr. Jessica Davis

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition often marked by difficulty interacting with others, limited, specific interests and/or repetitive behaviors. “Spectrum” describes the wide range of symptoms and their severity in children diagnosed with ASD. Symptoms can be identified as early as 18 months to two years of age, but may not be recognized fully by parents, teachers and health care professionals until later.

Some behaviors to watch for in younger children

  • Delayed speech/language milestones during first two years of life
  • Regression of language and/or social skills between 15 to 24 months
  • Decreased spontaneous sharing, such as not following when someone points toward an object or toy that should interest them
  • Severe difficulty with transitions or rigidity to a specific routine
  • Repetitive behaviors, including hand flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.

Behaviors in an older child

  • Difficulty making social or emotional connections
  • Difficulty reading nonverbal communication cues, including facial expressions, gestures, eye contact
  • More socially immature and less independent than peers
  • Intense interest in a specific area
  • Compulsions/ritual behaviors or movements

What a parent should do

  • Don’t be afraid to bring up your concerns with your child’s primary care provider as soon as possible
  • Talk with your child’s care givers and/or teachers to learn what they have observed
  • Contact your local early-intervention program or school system for evaluation
Dr. Jessica M. Davis is a pediatrician in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. She has a special interest in the care of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.