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Diagnosis and Early Intervention

produced April 2005

Success in School

produced May 2005

Program Information | Characteristics of Autism | Screening Questions | Effective Intervention | Resources

Characteristics of Autism

“Autism spectrum disorder” is an umbrella term that includes several diagnoses falling under the category of autism. They include autism, high-functioning autism (HFA), pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), pervasive developmental disorder—not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. All of these diagnoses involve the same basic neurological challenges, but to different degrees.

Children with Asperger syndrome, PDD-NOS, or HFA are labeled “higher functioning.” They are verbal and are more likely to attend public schools and achieve some level of independence as adults.

Possible Indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Does not babble, point, or make meaningful gestures by 1 year of age.
  • Does not speak one word by 16 months.
  • Does not combine two words by 2 years.
  • Does not respond to name.
  • Loses language or social skills.

Some Other Indicators

  • Poor eye contact.
  • Doesn't seem to know how to play with toys.
  • Excessively lines up toys or other objects.
  • Is attached to one particular toy or object.
  • Doesn't smile.
  • At times seems to be hearing-impaired.

A Parent's Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder. NIH Publication No. NIH-11-5511. National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, MD, 2011.

Kentucky residents may purchase videotapes of About Autism and other Kids’ Health Specials from KET. Call or e-mail KET Tape Duplication, (800) 945-9167 or .

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