Understanding Autism

If someone told you your child might have autism, or if your child received a diagnosis of autism, you likely have questions—starting with the basics: what is autism, and how will it affect my child and family’s life?

Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disability, known formally as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It usually appears during early childhood and can affect children’s language and communication skills, social skills, and self-regulation skills, which help us manage our emotions and behaviors in tough situations.

No one knows exactly what causes ASD, but research suggests a genetic connection, although a single gene has not been identified. In addition to genetics, brain structures and environmental variables have been linked to the development of autism. Once considered more predominant in white males, autism does not discriminate—and can affect children of all genders, races, ethnicities, nationalities, and socio-economic backgrounds.

Our goals are straightforward: to help your child build essential skills—and lead a happy, fulfilling life. 

Assessing and Diagnosing Autism

Currently, no medical or blood test can diagnose autism. Instead, pediatricians and other healthcare professionals evaluate your child’s developmental history and behavior—and may need to rule out medical conditions like hearing or speech problems.

If your pediatrician suspects ASD, your child will need to be evaluated by a provider who specializes in autism. This can include clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, developmental pediatricians, or pediatric neurologists. Whatever the case, a thorough evaluation involves an interview with parents or caregivers; a complete medical exam; a review of all related medical, psychological, and school records; an assessment of your child’s cognitive, developmental, and adaptive functioning skills; and an observation of your child playing.