What is Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or autism, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts brain development causing most individuals to experience communication difficulty, delayed social interactions, repetitive behaviour and restricted interest in a variety of activities.

The term “spectrum” refers to a continuum of severity. Children and adults with autism have particular characteristics in common, but the conditions cover a wide spectrum.

The autism spectrum affects individuals to varying degrees. It is also important to keep in mind that individuals with autism vary widely in their needs, skills and abilities.

There is no standard person with autism.

Early Signs of Autism

(12 to 24 Months) – May demonstrate some of these symptoms

  • Begins to develop language and loses it, or doesn’t begin language at all.
  • Respond inconsistently or not at all to sounds
  • Difficulty transitioning to new tasks (tantrums)
  • Irregular sleeping / wakes at night
  • Does not “point and look”
  • Difficulty bonding (e.g. child is indifferent to parents’ presence)
  • Self restricted/selected diet
  • Limited imaginative play
  • Not interested in playing with other children
  • Chronic gastrointestinal problems
  • Repeated infections

Unfortunately many pediatricians and other physicians are not experienced in diagnosing autism.

Don’t accept your doctor’s advice if they propose a “wait and see” approach or promises that your child will “catch up”.

If your child has normal development and then regresses, you should seek help immediately.

If you suspect an autism diagnoses please check out the early warning brochure “Is This Your Child.” You can provide it for your childcare centre, doctor’s office or a friend.

If you prefer hard copies mailed to you, please e-mail your mailing address and specify the amount required to info@autismcanada.org.

It’s important to know, that each person with autism is unique and will have different abilities.

Symptoms caused by autism can be mild in one person and severe in another.

Individuals with severe autism conditions may have serious cognitive disability, sensory issues and symptoms of extremely repetitive and unusual behaviour.

Individuals with mild autism conditions, however, may seem more like they have personality differences, making it challenging to form relationships.

The primary symptoms of autism include problems with communication and social interaction, as well as repetitive interests and activities.

Here are some of the characteristics that may be present when looking at an autism diagnosis.

Strengths exhibited by individuals with autism

  • Non-verbal reasoning skills
  • Reading skills
  • Perceptual motor skills
  • Drawing skills
  • Computer interest and skills
  • Exceptional memory
  • Visual Spatial abilities
  • Music skills

Weaknesses exhibited by individuals with autism

The above exceptional skills may be combined with delays in other areas of development.

All individuals with the diagnosis demonstrate some of the following:

  • Impairment in social relationships
  • Deficits in communication/language
  • Perseveration on interests and activities
  • Dependence on routine
  • Abnormal responses to sensory stimulation
  • Behaviour problems
  • Variability of intellectual functioning
  • Uneven development profile
  • Difficulties in sleeping, toileting and eating
  • Immune irregularities
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Gastrointestinal problems


It is a common misconception that children with autism are not affectionate, and prefer to be alone. Many children with autism love to be around people, and hugged and tickled. A well-known saying in the autism community is “if you have met one child with autism- you have met one child.”

I think my child may have autism, but everyone keeps telling me to just wait and see.

If you are a parent concerned that your child may have autism, you are doing the right thing by getting online and researching how to help your child. Many parents of children with autism are told by family, friends, sometimes even teachers or family doctors and others that love them that they shouldn’t worry.

Autism is scary so the earlier the diagnoses, the earlier supports needed and the sooner learning can begin to best support your child.

Did you know, there’s no medical exam or blood test that can diagnose autism?

However, there are definite signs flagging autism.

Observing signs and examining a behaviour/development will assist doctors to make a diagnosis of autism.

Information provided by Autism Canada website (https://www.autismspeaks.ca/)