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April is Autism Awareness Month

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), hereafter referred to as Autism (which includes Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified [PDD-NOS]), is a complex, lifelong developmental condition that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships and self-regulation.

At first glance, some people with Autism may appear to have an intellectual disability, sensory processing issues, or problems with hearing or vision and the diagnosis of Autism may become more challenging. These conditions can co-occur with Autism and it can be confusing to families when they receive multiple diagnoses. However, it is important to identify Autism, as an accurate and early Autism diagnosis can provide the basis for appropriate educational and home-based support.

Medical professionals who may have experience with Autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders include pediatricians (especially developmental pediatricians), neurologists, psychiatrists and psychologists. Not every one of these professionals has experience with Autism, so you should seek recommendations of knowledgeable professionals in your area from:

  • Your local Autism Society affiliate;
  • Autism support groups;
  • People who have children or other family members with Autism; and
  • Your primary care provider.

Evaluations typically begin with your primary care provider and vary based on age. If your primary care professional does not wish to refer you to a diagnostician or does not acknowledge your concerns, it is important to know that you have the right to contact a diagnostician for a second opinion. Check the website of your local Autism Society affiliate for information about diagnosticians in your area or call to speak with a National Information & Referral Specialist at 800-3-AUTISM (800-328-8476).

For more information about understanding Autism, read here

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