What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopmental disorders characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, communication and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviors  Autistic disorder, sometimes called classic autism is the most severe form of ASD while other conditions along the spectrum include a milder form known as Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS).

  • Autistic Disorder (also called "classic" autism)  This is what most people think of when hearing the word "autism". People with autistic disorder usually have significant language delays, social and communication challenges and unusual behaviors and interests.  Many people with autistic disorder also have intellectual disability and may not point at objects to show interest, not look at objects when another person points to them, have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all, avoid eye contact, want to be alone, have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings, prefer not to be held held or cuddled or might cuddle only when they want to, appear to be unaware when people talk to them but respond to other sounds, be very interested in people but not know how to talk, play or relate to them, repeat or echo words or phrases said to them or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language, have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions, not pay "pretend" games, repeat actions over and over again, have trouble adapting when a routine changes, have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel or sound, and/or lose skills they once had such as stop saying words they were using.*
  • Asperger Syndrome People with Asperger syndrome usually have some milder symptoms of autistic disorder.  They might have social challenges and unusual behaviors and interests.  However, they typically do not have problems with language or intellectual disability.  Although symptoms are present early in life, Asperger syndrome is usually diagnosed when a child is school age and may have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings, have a hard time understanding body language, avoid eye contact, want to be alone, or want to interact but not knowing how, have a narrow--sometimes obsessive interests, talk only about themselves and their interests, speak in unusual ways or with an odd tone of voice, have a had time making friends, seem nervous in large social groups, seem nervous in large social groups, be clumsy or awkward, have rituals that they refuse to change--such as a very hard rigid bedtime routine, develop odd or repetitive movements and/or have unusual sensory reactions.*
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS; also called "atypical autism")  People who meet some of the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome, but not all, may be diagnosed with PDD-NOS.  People with PDD-NOS usually have few and milder symptoms than those with autistic disorder.  The symptoms might cause only social and communication challenges.  

ASD can also be associated with difficulties in motor coordination, attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Although ASD can be associated with intellectual disabilities some people with ASD may excel in math, music, art and visual skills.

Act Early!

Often parents are the first to notice that their child is showing signs of ASDs and we encourage you to trust your instincts. If you have any suspicions we strongly suggest that you contact your child's pediatrician for a Developmental Screening and/or find a facility that has a panel of professionals that can give a comprehensive evaluation of your child's development.  


Difficulties in development can be extensive, affecting functioning in cognitive, language, social, play, and adaptive skill areas therefore we cannot stress the importance of early intervention! As a child with ASD grows older, delays in these areas can become more pronounced when compared to typically developing children of the same chronological age, making early intervention critical!


Please see "Screening and Diagnosisunder this tab for more information.

One in 68

Experts estimate that 1 out of 68 children have an ASD, a 30% increase from 1 in 88 two years ago, according to the new report released by the CDC on March 27, 2014. The new report now estimates 1 in 42 boys have autism which is 4.5 times more than girls which is 1 in 189.  One thing that hasn't changed over the years is that children are still being diagnosed late. According to the report, the average age of diagnosis is still over the age of 4 even though autism can be diagnosed by age 2. This is concerning because the earlier a child is diagnosed with autism the better their chances of overcoming the difficulties that come with the disorder.





Behind these numbers are REAL CHILDREN--REAL FAMILIES and it's important that each individual gets the help they need.   While Illinois does have a mandate some may know as the"Autism Law" in some cases it allows policies to opt out which leaves families with few options for their child to receive therapy especially during the most critical developmental period.   We ask that you contact your representatives in Congress because the need for services only begins with a diagnosis.    

CDC Link: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6302a1.htm?s_cid=ss6302a1_w

Some signs...

It is important to note that children without ASD may have some of these symptoms however for children with ASD the impairments can make life very challenging.

Early intervention is critical!

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
  • No back-and -forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • Not responding to their name by 12 months
  • No back and forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Lines up toys or other objects
  • Plays with toys the same way every time
  • Very organized
  • Gets upset by minor changes
  • Has obsessive interests
  • Has to follow certain routines
  • Only interacts to achieve a desired goal
  • Repeating words or phrases over and over
  • Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
  • Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel
  • No words by 16 months
  • No meaningful, two word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age