There are nearly 1 in 36 children in the United States who have been
diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ASD is reported
to occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups and is four
times more common among boys than among girls (CDC, 2023).
ASD is not a mental illness or disease. Rather, it is a developmental
disorder caused by differences in the brain. There is no one cause
of ASD, and the abilities of individuals with ASD vary greatly from
person to person.
People with ASD may have differences in communication, behavior,
social interactions and learning styles, and the severity or impact on
daily functioning varies based on the individual. Some people with
ASD are nonverbal, while others may need support with social cues
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all
children get screened for autism at their 18-month exam, 24-month
exam and whenever a parent or doctor has concerns. If you have
concerns about your child’s development, early intervention is
important. This includes learning the signs, examining your child’s
developmental milestones, getting an evaluation and accessing
As a parent or caregiver, it’s very important to become familiar
with typical developmental milestones. These are things related
to communication and social skills, such as pointing, babbling,
using gestures or waving “bye-bye,” imitating play, using limited eye
contact, or not showing interest; or restrictive or repetitive behaviors
such as unusual responses to lights, sounds, textures, or new items,
unusual repetitive behaviors such as flapping hands, and difficulty
adapting to new environments.
If you have concerns about your child missing milestones, having
trouble with changes in routine, or losing previously learned skills, it
is important to have your child screened for ASD by their health care
provider. They can screen your child to assess the likelihood of ASD
and make a referral to a specialist for a diagnostic evaluation.
To make a diagnosis of ASD, doctors will look at your child’s
developmental history and behavior. Early signs vary from person to
person, and not all children show all the signs. Some show signs as
infants while others start displaying behaviors as late as two or three
Children with undiagnosed autism may experience difficulties
with relationships and communication in adolescence and young
adulthood. Early detection and screening are important to make sure
children receive the supports they need to reach their full potential.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Learn the
Signs. Act Early.” program provides free resources to help
families monitor developmental milestones and recognize signs
of developmental concerns, including autism. To learn more visit
CDC’s Developmental Milestones | CDC.
Early detection and intervention make a difference!
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