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Autism Spectrum Disorder

image of young boy with glasses sitting next to mom on park bench

About Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning.

The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities.

How IDEA defines ASD

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines Autism Spectrum Disorder as a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. 

Signs include social impairment, communication difficulties, and repetitive behavior.


image of young girl holding teddy bear
image of young boy with helmet on sitting on skateboard holding flowers

Characteristics associated with ASD

Other characteristics often associated with autism are: 

  • Engaging in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements
  • Resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines
  • Unusual responses to sensory experiences

The term autism does not apply if the child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance. A child who shows the characteristics of autism after age 3 could be diagnosed as having autism if the criteria above are satisfied. [34 CFR §300.8(c)1)]

Success in the classroom

In addition to academic instruction, special education programs for students with autism focus on improving communication, social, academic, behavioral, and daily living skills. The classroom environment should be structured so that the program is consistent and predictable.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder Resources

Autism Cartoon - English
Understanding the Spectrum - a Comic Strip Explanation
Categories: Advocacy, Autism, Special Healthcare Needs