Autism is a complex neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in life and affects how a person acts and interacts with others, communicates, and learns.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have challenges in three key areas of development:

  • social communication
  • language
  • behaviour

The word “spectrum” in ASD means that every child is unique and has his own combination of characteristics. The range of symptoms and severity of these symptoms vary greatly between children; two children with ASD can demonstrate very different features.

As your child grows and develops, how these characteristics are displayed by your child can change.

Some children show signs of autism in infancy while others reach expected developmental milestones for a period of time then stop using language, play, or social skills that they have already learned. The first signs of ASD are usually noticeable by 12 to 24 months of age. Parents are very good at detecting developmental problems in their children and should be concerned if their child does not:

  • Babble by 11 months of age
  • Use simple gestures by 12 months, such as waving bye
  • Use single words by 18 months or 2 word phrases by 24 months
  • Respond to his or her name
  • Make eye contact when interacting with others
  • Try to get his or her parents’ attention

ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, and is almost five times more common among boys than among girls.