Autism Awareness | News, Sports, Jobs


Jacques Baker

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in 44 children in the United States has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder caused by differences in the brain. Some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition. The other causes are not yet known. Scientists believe there are multiple causes of ASD that work together to change the most common ways it develops.

The first signs of autism

People with ASD may behave, communicate, interact and learn in different ways. There is often nothing in their appearance that sets them apart. The abilities of people with ASD can vary greatly. For example, some people with ASD may have advanced conversational skills while others may be non-verbal. Some people with ASD need a lot of help with their daily lives; others can work and live with little or no support.

Signs of ASD often appear in the early stages of life and will remain present throughout adulthood. It is essential to intervene as soon as a diagnosis is suspected. The earlier a person is assessed and diagnosed, the sooner treatment services and resource support can be integrated into developmental care. Below are common early indicators of autism:

— Rarely smile at caregivers

— Rarely imitating the sounds and movements of others

— Minimal or no eye contact

— Does not respond to his/their name

— Repetitively stiffens the arms, hands and legs

— Delays in developmental movements – rolling over, crawling, etc.

Learn more about spectrum

There is no single type of autism as it manifests in varying degrees, ranging from non-communicative to highly functional. It is often referred to a “spectrum” to reflect this range of presenting symptoms.

Think of it like the colors in a paint swatch strip showing different shades of the same color going from light to dark. At “light” end of the paint stripe or spectrum is the old diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. At the other, darker end is the old diagnosis of autistic disorder. Word “ancient” is used because we now include these and other variations of autism in a collective diagnosis encompassing ASD.

Search for support

Current treatments for ASD aim to reduce symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and quality of life. ASD affects each person differently, which means people with ASD have unique strengths and challenges and different treatment needs. Treatment plans usually involve multiple professionals and are tailored to the individual.

If you think your child may have ASD, see your pediatrician immediately. The need for support will not decrease as children with autism grow into adulthood. Educational, behavioral, medical, and vocational services are just a few types of support available in your community, and your pediatrician can help connect you with local resources.

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Jackie Baker, LCSW, is a clinical social worker with UPMC Behavioral Health and sees patients at the UPMC Williamsport Divine Providence Campus, 1100 Grampian Blvd., Williamsport. For more information, visit

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