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What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a developmental disability that often affects how people communicate, socialize, comprehend information, or behave. And while there is no one singular factor that causes autism, symptoms of this spectrum disorder can range from mild to very severe. Simply put, a child with autism will understand and relate to others differently than their neurotypical peers.

Why is Autism called Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism is typically characterized by repetitive behaviors but encompasses a variety of other developmental disorders which is why you often hear it referred to as “being on the spectrum.” Kids with autism are all unique and present different levels of challenges. Some may be lower functioning, and some you may never know are diagnosed with Autism. By thinking of Autism as a spectrum, we can fully understand the range of functions people with autism have.

What are the signs of Autism?

Autism usually presents within the first few months of your child’s life. However, in some cases, children may develop normally for the first few years before they begin to show symptoms. Studies show that the majority of parents notice the symptoms of autism within the first twelve months of their child’s life. Because autism is part of a spectrum of disorders, the symptoms can vary wildly. It is important to note that this list is not all-inclusive.


  • Don’t respond to their name by 12 months
  • Doesn’t share or play well with others
  • Prefers solo play
  • Don’t enjoy physical contact
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Refusal of comfort
  • Don’t comprehend their own or other’s emotions


  • Delayed language development
  • Repeating the same phrase several times
  • Difficulty with pronunciation
  • Minimal gesticulation
  • Unable to stay on topic
  • Misses social cues


  • Repetitive behaviors (rocking, twirling, etc.)
  • Hyper pacing
  • Unusual fixation on various activities or objects
  • Extreme sensitivity to sensory stimuli (light, sound, touch)
  • Picky eating
  • Aggressiveness
  • The need to stick to a strict routine and becoming upset with its disrupted

To get a clear diagnosis, it’s important to regularly schedule well-child visits with your pediatrician. Your provider can help you monitor your child’s development and make recommendations based on various milestones and other factors.

Is Autism becoming more common?

In short, no, autism is not suddenly becoming more common. It is, however, becoming more diagnosed due to greater awareness and access to care. Studies have shown that one in 44 children will be diagnosed with autism before they turn eight, which is a huge increase from just one in 150 in 2000. 

Varying Degrees of Autism

It’s important to understand that the autism spectrum encompasses several different disorders, hence the term spectrum. Sometimes you hear people ask “How autistic?” While someone can’t just be “a little autistic,” there are varying degrees of autism that are higher or lower functioning depending on the severity of the symptoms. In 2013, all subcategories of autism were combined in a single diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, the subcategories included:

  • Asperger’s syndrome - Characterized by an obsessive focus on a topic of interest and the performance of a particular behavior over and over again. A child with Asperger’s syndrome is just as intelligent as the next child but may struggle with normal social cues. Asperger’s syndrome is considered a mild form of autism.
  • PDD-NOS - This stands for pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified. This is usually a step more severe than Asperger’s syndrome, but not as severe as autistic disorder.
  • Autistic Disorder - This portion of the spectrum is considered more severe than PDD-NOS. Symptoms are prevalent.
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder - This is considered the most severe part of the spectrum, although the rarest. Children on this end of the spectrum may develop normally for the first few years of their life, then quickly deteriorate, struggling with social, language, and mental abilities. Oftentimes, these children can develop a seizure disorder in addition to other symptoms.

Can Autism be cured?

Autism cannot be cured, and we do not think of Autism Spectrum Disorder as something that needs to be cured. However, children with Autism deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential, which is why an early diagnosis and treatment plan is crucial. Autism in children is an issue of diversity and not of disability, and we are committed to helping you navigate the challenges of raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Every parent wants their child to be happy and healthy. While raising a child on the spectrum can be challenging, it is manageable. Some children may experience a reduction in symptoms as they grow and learn to recognize their own behaviors, ticks, and triggers.

Raleigh Group Providers Guide Autism Treatment

Autism is such a unique disorder with a wide variety of factors. Each case is unique. That’s why we recommend scheduling an appointment with us to determine which treatment is right for your child. Our Memphis pediatricians typically recommend a combination of therapies and medications to help your little ones live their best lives. Schedule an appointment today and learn more.