Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
— Facts and Resources
Does someone you love have autism? That's the theme of this year's autism awareness campaign on MBTA trains and buses in April throughout Massachusetts. This public awareness campaign puts a human face on autism. Read the press release here.
ASDs are a family of developmental disabilities that include autism and Asperger’s disorder. They are neurological disorders that affect the development of the brain, causing difficulty with behavior, communication, learning, and social interaction.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012), about one in 88 children in the United States has an ASD. These disorders are among the most common developmental disabilities, after intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy.
Early diagnosis and intervention during the first years of a child’s life can significantly impact that child’s long-term prognosis.
- Visit our ASD Clinic page.
- Read our commentary about the proposed changes to the DSM5 diagnostic criteria.
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a free "early warning signs" magnet or poster.
Families, educators, and service providers are constantly bombarded by a massive amount of confusing and often conflicting information about the countless treatments available for autism. Understanding treatment options, and making informed decisions for your child, are critical.
- Learn about the National Standards Report, the most comprehensive analysis available to date about treatments for children and adolescents with ASD.
- Read about applied behavior analysis, or ABA.
Hot Topics and ASD
- ASD and Technology
- ASD and Bullying
- Insurance Coverage and ASD
- Proposed Changes to the DSM5 (commentary)
- ASD Fact Sheet (pdf)
- Autism Manual for Parents (available as a free download)
- Autism Manual for Educators (available as a free download)
- Top 10 Experts’ Q&A Columns
- Exceptional Parent magazine articles profiling military families
- Upcoming Parent Trainings (view our events calendar)
- The National Standards Report (available as a free download from the National Autism Center website) is the most comprehensive analysis available to date about treatments for children and adolescents with ASD.
- Exceptional Parent magazine articles profiling military families served by May Institute
- Success stories
- May Center's "Night of Stars" Prom video
Services for Families of Individuals with ASD
- At May Institute, we offer services ranging from diagnosis of very young children through support throughout the lifespan. We invite you to browse our website to learn more about our offerings in 14 states.
- Learn about our special education schools for students with autism and other developmental disabilities.
What are autism spectrum disorders?
Autism spectrum disorder, (ASDs), also known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), are a family of developmental disabilities that includes autism (autistic disorder), Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), Rett’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). ASDs are neurological disabilities that affect the development of the brain, causing difficulty with behavior, communication, learning, and social interaction.
How prevalent are ASDs?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012), about one in 88 children in the United States has an ASD. These disorders are more common than cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDs. Autism in particular is on the rise, and is now the second most common development disability after mental retardation. It is five times more common in boys than in girls.
What are the symptoms of ASD?
ASD is suspected when a child’s development departs from the typical patterns. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), possible indicators of autism include:
- no babbling, pointing, or meaningful gestures by 1 year of age;
- no one-word communications by 16 months;
- no two-word phrases by 2 years;
- loss of language or social skills;
- poor eye contact;
- inability to play appropriately with toys;
- unusual attachment to one particular toy or object;
- no smiling; and
- apparent lack of response to sounds or voices and name being called.
Children with ASD have a difficult time with the normal give-and-take of human relations. They can’t interpret subtle social communication clues such as body language, gestures, facial expressions, and nuances in tone of voice. Likewise, their body language and tone of voice may not reflect what they are thinking or feeling. Other difficulties that may accompany ASD include repetitive behaviors, sensory problems, and seizures.
How are ASDs diagnosed?
Each ASD has specific diagnostic criteria described by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in its Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). Autism is diagnosed when a child exhibits at least six of 12 symptoms in the following areas: 1) social interaction, 2) communication, and 3) repetitive/ stereotyped patterns of behavior and interest.
What is the difference between autism and Asperger’s disorder?
Unlike children with autism, children with Asperger’s disorder demonstrate no clinically significant delays in language, cognition, of self-help skills. Asperger’s disorder is usually diagnosed when the child is between the ages of 5 and 11, whereas autism is usually diagnosed much earlier, often before age 3, and sometimes as early as 18 months. Many people with autism also have an intellectual disability, while those with Asperger's typically do not.
What is the best treatment for ASDs?
According to the NIMH, evidence indicates that intensive early intervention in optimal educational settings for at least two years during the preschool years results in improved outcomes in most young children with ASD. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only half of the children with ASD are diagnosed before they enter kindergarten.
The earlier services can be obtained to address the symptoms and behaviors related to ASDs, the better the prognosis. With consistent and targeted services, many children diagnosed with ASD can go on to become functional members of society and lead independent and semi-independent lives.
A mainstay of an effective intervention program is applied behavior analysis, or ABA. ABA is a methodology, or framework, that applies scientific interventions to address behavioral needs.