What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that affects socialization, communication, executive function, and how the brain processes sensory information. ASD encompasses a broad array of symptoms and levels of impairment.

In some, ASD presents as an “invisible” disability in which people may appear neurotypical to outside observers, sometimes resulting in missed diagnoses or unmet support needs. In others, ASD can cause significant social and functional impairments that require intensive, lifelong support.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 1 in 59 people in the United States have ASD, with the condition being diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls. ASD is generally diagnosed with delays or atypical functioning in at least one of the following areas: social interaction, language as used in social communication, or symbolic and imaginative play.

People with autism often have difficulties with social interactions. Approximately 40 percent do not communicate with words. Some may have obsessive routines or may be preoccupied with a particular item or subject. Behaviors that seem odd or unusual are due to the neurological differences and not the result of intentional rudeness or "bad" behaviors.

Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder

People on the autism spectrum may experience:

  • Delays in social development
  • Difficulties developing and using language
  • Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior

Social Interaction

People on the autism spectrum may have difficulty:

  • Developing the requisite skills to build or maintain relationships
  • Picking up on social cues in the environment
  • Understanding other people’s points of view
  • Applying social norms to many situations
  • Filtering responses that may be considered rude or inappropriate

Therefore, you may observe that some, but not all people with ASD:

  • Do not maintain social relationships
  • Withdraw from social interactions

Language & Communication

People on the autism spectrum may have difficulty:

  • Asking for things
  • Initiating or maintaining a conversation
  • Understanding abstract concepts e.g. metaphor, allegory, alliteration
  • Showing physical affection
  • Controlling pitch/volume of voice
  • Shifting the conversation from a preferred topic
  • Tolerating certain sounds/tones
  • Communicating in stressful or unfamiliar situations

Therefore, you may observe that some people with ASD:

  • Take another’s hand to gain access to a desired item
  • Exhibit echolalia
  • Engage in repetitive repertoires/questioning
  • Have a concrete learning style
  • Exhibit maladaptive behaviors as a means of communication

Repetitive/Restricted Behavior

People on the autism spectrum may have difficulty:

  • Refraining from self-stimulatory behaviors (colloquially known as “stimming”)
  • Controlling repetitive body movements or vocal noises
  • Changing a routine
  • Expanding interests

Therefore, you may observe that some people:

  • Fixate on a topic/subject/object
  • Engage in self-injurious behaviors
  • Engage in aggressive behavior towards others

Adults and children with autism are often misunderstood. Some may display behaviors that are difficult to understand while others might be able to mask their disability. Many have not been diagnosed and most did not have the benefits of early support. 

However, an ASD diagnosis does not, in any way, condemn a person to an unhappy or disconnected life. With appropriate support, children and adults with autism can live fully engaged and meaningful lives, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum.

If you or your child has been diagnosed with ASD or require an autism assessment, YAI can help. YAI provides a range of holistic services including, but not limited to, housing, advocacy tools, vocational training, crisis response, social and community supports, and education that enable people with ASD and other types of intellectual and developmental disabilities to lead full and independent lives.

For more information about YAI Autism Center services call YAI LINK 212.273.6182

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.