WARP SPEED - What is Autism?

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What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition. Other causes are not yet known. Scientists believe there are multiple causes of ASD that act together to change the most common ways people develop.

There is often nothing about how they look that sets them apart from other people.  The abilities of people with ASD can vary significantly.


Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is described as a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first 2 years of life.


Key facts

  • Characteristics may be detected in early childhood, but autism is often not diagnosed until much later.
  • The abilities and needs of autistic people vary and can evolve over time. While some people with autism can live independently, others have severe disabilities and require life-long care and support.
  • Evidence-based psychosocial interventions can improve communication and social skills, with a positive impact on the well-being and quality of life of both autistic people and their caregivers.
  • Care for people with autism needs to be accompanied by actions at community and societal levels for greater accessibility, inclusivity and support.



Other Facts

  • In 2023 from the CDC shows that one in 36 children is now diagnosed with autism
  • Those children can be diagnosed at 2, many are diagnosed after the age of 4.
  • Boys are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.
  • 40% of kids with autism are non-verbal.
  • 44% of kids with autism have average or above average intellectual ability.
  • 31% of kids with autism have an intellectual disability. 

Types of Autism

  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder - those that display communication troubles, repetitive behaviors, comprehension deficiencies and social challenges among other symptoms.
  • Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) - absorbed into the ASD umbrella and was for those that have an inability to meet all of the criteria for autism.  It was a “catch-all” diagnosis for anyone who didn’t meet the autism standards and still displayed developmental delay.
  • Asperger’s Syndrome - previously recognized as a separate disorder from autism but absorbed into the ASD umbrella.  Specialists will occasionally diagnose children with Asperger’s to signify a subtype of less severe ASD. 
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) - absorbed into the ASD umbrella and has many of the same symptoms as autism, including the regression of communication and developmental skills. The main difference is that CDD onset is relatively late compared to other ASD.




Support levels

ASD Level 1: Requiring Support - mildest, or “highest functioning” form of autism.

ASD Level 2: Requiring Substantial Support - Social communication and repetitive behaviors.

ASD Level 3: Requiring Very Substantial Support - severe challenges in social communication as well as extremely inflexible behavior.



What are some symptoms?

Social Communication and Interaction Skills

  • Avoids or does not keep eye contact.
  • Does not respond to name by 9 months of age.
  • Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by 9 months of age.
  • Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age.
  • Uses few or no gestures by 12 months of age (for example, does not wave goodbye)
  • Does not share interests with others by 15 months of age (for example, shows you an object that they like)
  • Does not point to show you something interesting by 18 months of age.
  • Does not notice when others are hurt or upset by 24 months of age.
  • Does not notice other children and join them in play by 36 months of age.
  • Does not pretend to be something else, like a teacher or superhero, during play by 48 months of age.
  • Does not sing, dance, or act for you by 60 months of age.


Restricted or Repetitive Behaviors or Interests 

  • Close-up of child playing with toy blocks on the carpet.
  • Lines up toys or other objects and gets upset when order is changed.
  • Repeats words or phrases over and over (called echolalia)
  • Plays with toys the same way every time.
  • Is focused on parts of objects (for example, wheels)
  • Gets upset by minor changes.
  • Has obsessive interests.
  • Must follow certain routines.
  • Flaps hands, rocks body, or spins self in circles
  • Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel


Other Characteristics

  • Delayed language skills.
  • Delayed movement skills.
  • Delayed cognitive or learning skills.
  • Hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive behavior.
  • Epilepsy or seizure disorder.
  • Unusual eating and sleeping habits.
  • Gastrointestinal issues (for example, constipation).
  • Unusual mood or emotional reactions.
  • Anxiety, stress, or excessive worry.
  • Lack of fear or more fear than expected.



Autism Rating Scales

CARS & CARS2 – Childhood Autism Rating scale


The CARS consists of 14 domains assessing behaviors associated with autism, with a 15th domain rating general impressions of autism. Each domain is scored on a scale ranging from one to four; higher scores are associated with a higher level of impairment. Total scores can range from a low of 15 to a high of 60; scores below 30 indicate that the individual is in the non-autistic range, scores between 30 and 36.5 indicate mild to moderate autism, and scores from 37 to 60 indicate severe autism.



Three factors emerged: Social Impairment (SI), Negative Emotionality (NE), and Distorted Sensory Response (DSR)



ASRS - Autism Spectrum Rating Scales


Shows typical levels of concern; the Slightly Elevated term (60-64) indicates somewhat more concern than is typical; Elevated Score (65-69) describes more concerns than are typically reported; and a Very Elevated Score (70+) is a result with many more concerns than is typically reported.



  • Peer Socialization 
  • Adult Socialization 
  • Social/Emotional Reciprocity 
  • Atypical Language 
  • Stereotypy (purposeless repetitive behaviors) 
  • Behavioral Rigidity 
  • Sensory Sensitivity 



Types of Therapy

  • Occupational Therapy - focus on the things you want and need to do in your daily life.
  • Physical Therapy - their movement and range of motion
  • Speech Therapy - help people who have difficulty speaking to communicate better.
  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) - autism improve social interactions, learn new skills, and maintain positive behaviors.
  • Behavioral Management Therapy - reinforce wanted behaviors and reduce unwanted behaviors.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - take a close look at thoughts and emotion to understand how the affect the child’s actions.
  • Joint Attention Therapy - focuses on improving specific skills related to shared attention,1 such as: Pointing. Showing. Coordinating looks between a person and an object
  • Nutritional Therapy - assessment of nutritional status, evaluation of nutritional needs, and interventions or counseling to achieve optimal outcomes.


Early Intervention is Key!!!!



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