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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability. It affects language development, social interaction and behavior. Symptoms of ASD range from mild to severe.

ASD occurs in as many as one in 59 children. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females. An estimated one out of 37 boys and one out of 151 girls are diagnosed with autism each year. Symptoms of ASD can appear as early as 18 months of age.

Causes of Autism

The cause of ASD is not known. Scientists believe that it is caused by a combination of genetic factors (something you are born with) and environmental factors. What is certain is that parents are not to blame! Vaccines have also been ruled out as a cause.

Signs of Autism

There are many characteristics of ASD. Some people with ASD have only a few characteristics and are mildly affected. Other people have many symptoms, causing a more severe disability. Most people with ASD have difficulty with language, social interaction, and behavior. Some other characteristics are:

  • Lack of pretend or social play
  • Repetitive or unusual movements, such as hand-flapping or rocking
  • Limited gestures, such as pointing or waving
  • Repetitive or unusual language
  • Unusual interests with certain objects or topics
  • Difficulty with changes in routine
  • Unusual response to sound, touch and taste (such as difficulty with loud sounds, not wanting to be touched, or dislike of certain textures in foods)
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty making friends with peers
  • Difficulty having a conversation with others

There are several signs in young children that suggest that they need to be evaluated for autism. These include the following:

  • Lack of eye contact
  • No response to name being called
  • Lack of babbling between 6-12 months
  • Lack of pointing for communication by 12 months
  • Lack of any words by 18 months
  • Loss of language at any age

Treatment for Autism

There is no known cure for autism, but early intervention is very helpful in improving communication abilities and life skills in children with ASD. Speech-language therapy and occupational therapy can also be helpful. Other treatments include behavioral approaches, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), and developmental interventions. Medicine can sometimes be used to treat symptoms related to ASD, such as difficulties with attention or with sleeping. No single treatment is best for all children. Treatment should meet the child’s individual needs.

The goal of treatment is to help the child become independent and to improve the child’s quality of life. Early therapy and special education programs can help people with ASD gain self-care, social, and job skills. This can help them live enjoyable lives and contribute to their communities.

Speech Language Therapy

The goal of speech-language therapy is to help the child with ASD to develop communication skills, using the best method possible. Family involvement and practice between therapy sessions is very important. Parents and caregivers can practice skills they learn in therapy during daily activities at home. The success of therapy depends on how much the child practices the new communication skills between therapy sessions.

Web Resources on Autism

Contact Us

For more information, contact the Division of Speech-Language Pathology, 513-636-4341.

Last Updated 03/2019

Who treats this.

Learn about how the Kelly O’Leary Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders can improve the health, quality of life and outcomes for children and adolescents.