About Autism

You have concerns. We have answers. We can help you in understanding what it means when your child is on the spectrum and the best ways to support them and your family.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (“ASD”) are both names for a group of complex brain development disorders. Those with Autism or ASD have difficulties in social interactions, nonverbal and verbal communication, and can engage in repetitive and/or self-injurious behaviors.

Diagnoses of Autism or ASD are on the rise, now affecting 1 in 54 Americans, with a greater prevalence in males. The causes of autism aren’t precisely understood, but both genetic and environmental factors are thought to be associated with the disorder.

The use of the term ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’ was formalized in 2013 with the publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual. With this update, a variety of autistic disorders were merged under one umbrella term: autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. Individuals with one of these disorders are often said to be “on the Spectrum.”

What are the Signs of Autism?

While each case of Autism is unique, there are several symptoms of Autism commonly seen across the board:

No speech

Delayed speech

Echolalia (repetition of words or phrases)

Repetitive motor behaviors (hand flapping, spinning in circles, rocking back and forth)

Loss of previously acquired speech

Limited use of gestures (ex. waving, pointing)

Hypersensitivity to sounds, lights, textures

Obsessive interests, insisting on doing actions in the same way

Lack of joint attention

Lack of social skills/desire to interact with others

Avoiding eye contact

Not responding to name

Delayed or limited imaginary play (i.e. lines up toy cars instead of playing with them)

Trouble with transitions

Challenging behaviors

Aggressive behaviors
Extremely picky eating habits
Unusual sleeping habits
Cognitive impairments
Delay in motor skills

How Common is Autism?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1% of the world’s population has autism spectrum disorder – over 75,000,000 people.  Recent data indicates that at least 3 million Americans are “on the Spectrum.”  At least 10x as many children are now considered to have ASD than 40 years ago, with increased publicity, awareness, and diagnosis being only part of the reason.

Boys are significantly more at risk of developing ASD than girls – between 4 to 5 times as likely.  Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data indicates that 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with ASD.

Concerned about your child’s development?

Screen your child online in less than 10 minutes with our M-CHAT tool and receive immediate results.

What Causes Autism

Spectrum Disorder?

Science is advancing rapidly in many fields, including areas of genetic and environmental analysis that explain many disorders and diseases. Despite these advancements, definitive answers are still elusive for many conditions, including autism. However, there are some factors that have been linked with autism even if they aren’t strictly “causes”:


A genetic predisposition to autism

There are a number of rare gene conditions (mutations) that seem to be associated with autism. Some of these may be sufficient to result in autism, but many others are merely associated with autism. The research is still in a very early stage in this field, and scientists are still trying to piece together the puzzle.
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Certain environmental (non-genetic) factors appear to increase the risk of child developing autism.

These factors involve things before and after birth:

  • Advanced parental age at conception (both mom and dad age)
  • Certain difficulties during birth, especially oxygen deprivation
  • Certain maternal illnesses during pregnancy
  • A lack of folic acid may be associated with higher risk of autism in a child.

All of these are scientific theories, hypotheses, or results of early research. Like many fast-evolving areas of science, today’s theories may be discarded and replaced with new theories or research tomorrow. At Action Behavior Centers, we focus on the treatment of autism rather than its cause.

For more information on the high-risk factors associated with ASD, check here.

What Treatment Works?

While the causes of autism are still a mystery, research about treatment for autism or therapy for autism has developed some good, clear results. Hundreds of research studies over more than 30 years have examined the “who, what, when, and how” of different therapies for autism.

We are very pleased that the work we do is validated by this research – our staff have been trained at leading schools that teach the therapy that works best: Applied Behavior Analysis. Our program has been built to incorporate the best practices from research studies, and we are happy to share with you the “why” of what we do.

These are the things that work to help many children overcome the challenges associated with autism:

Therapeutic applied behavior analysis (ABA) for 40 hours per week.

This is a “full-time ABA program.” Research is extremely clear on this – the more hours a child receives, the better the results in overcoming developmental delays.

Clinical supervisors and therapists (BCBAs and RBTs) who are highly-trained and consistent.

Children on the Spectrum benefit from a strong continuity of care, so professionals with practical experience and a dedication to the field are essential. Consistency in the therapist is an important factor in the success of an ABA program, and we really focus on this with our team and our clients

A well-defined program that is established to address a child’s specific developmental delays.

Some children on the Autism Spectrum are non-verbal and need to develop ways to communicate. Others are very verbal, and their main delays are in repetitive behaviors, self-injurious behaviors, or social skills. Every child is unique, and a BCBA must thoroughly assess a child before developing a program to address these deficits.

Family Guidance

Families and guardians are an essential part of any ABA therapy program and need to be active in the treatment process. Family Guidance is a core part of what we do at ABC. We require biweekly sessions between guardians and their dedicated BCBA where there’s continued discussions and teachings on how to generalize what’s being done during center hours to their lives at home and in the community.

What Do I Do Next? 

If your child already has a diagnosis of Autism / Autism Spectrum Disorder and you are interested in getting started with enrollment, please complete our brief New Client Application or contact us.

If your child has many of the potential signs of autism (read about them here) but does not have a diagnosis, please complete the M-CHAT Autism Screening Tool provided on our website.