About Autism

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What is Autism? What are its common traits?

Autism is a devastating neurological and biological disorder that typically presents in children between the ages in 18 months to five years of age. Autism currently affects 1 in every 68 children today. It is estimated there are over 1million people in the Canada alone with autism. Autism affects each individual differently and at different levels of severity. Some people with autism are severely affected, cannot speak, require constant one-on-one care, and are never able to live independently. While others who have less severe symptoms, can communicate, and eventually acquire the necessary skills to live on their own.

The behaviors and challenges typically associated with autism are often as a result of differences in thinking and processing information. It is through a deep understanding of the impacts of these different thinking styles that we are able to develop approaches and strategies which allow people with autism to better understand and contribute to the world around them.

Typically, autism affects individuals in five key areas:

  • Communication (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Social skills
  • Behaviors
  • Learning
  • Medical issues

Symptoms / Signs of Autism


  • Not speaking or very limited speech
  • Loss of words the child was previously able to say
  • Difficulty expressing basic wants and needs
  • Poor vocabulary development or regression in language skills
  • Problems following directions or finding objects that are named
  • Repeating what is said ( echolalia )
  • Problems answering questions
  • Speech that sounds different (e.g., lacking prosody and inflection or speech that is high-pitched)

Social Skills

  • Poor eye contact with people or objects
  • Poor play skills (pretend or social play)
  • Being overly focused on a topic or objects that interest them
  • Problems making friends
  • Crying, becoming angry, giggling, or laughing for no known reason or at the wrong time
  • Sensitivity to being touched or held

Reacting to the World Around Them

  • Rocking, hand flapping or other movements ( self-stimulating movements )
  • Not paying attention to things the child sees or hears
  • Problems dealing with changes in routine
  • Using objects in unusual ways
  • Unusual attachments to objects
  • No fear of real dangers
  • Being either very sensitive or not sensitive enough to touch, light, or sounds (e.g., disliking loud sounds or only responding when sounds are very loud; also called a sensory integration disorder
  • Feeding difficulties (accepting only select foods, refusing certain food textures)
  • Sleep problems
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