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What is Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurobiological disorder characterized by deficits in social communication and social interaction as well as restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

  • One in 68 children and one in 42 boys in the U.S. are affected by autism
  • Boys are 4.5 times more likely to have ASD than girls
  • Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
  • An estimated 2 million individuals in the U.S. are affected
  • ASD occurs in children of all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds
  • More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined
  • The symptoms vary widely from child to child and range from mild to severe
  • Recent studies show that most children are diagnosed after age 4, despite the fact that ASD can be diagnosed much earlier

Facts and information are based on statistics from varied sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the prevalence statistics from the Child & Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative and Autism Speaks.

Autism 101 Webinar

For additional information, join the FREE Autism 101 webinar, by Dr. Marlene Sotelo, BCBA-D, MT-BC, Director of Programs and Operations, Els for Autism Foundation.

Developmental Milestones

The signs of autism often exist before a child’s 2nd birthday.  Below are some early social communication milestones that are important to look for as your toddler grows.  (Source: Marcus Autism Center, NIH Autism Center of Excellence)

Social & Language Milestones at age 9 months

Social Milestone:

  • Smiles and laughs while looking at you

Language Milestone:

  • Vocalizes often with babbles
  • Reaches for things he/she wants
Social & Language Milestones at age 12 months

Social Milestone:

  • Responds by looking when name is called
  • Enjoys playing social games such as peek-a-boo

Language Milestones:

  • Uses gestures such as giving, showing and pointing
  • Uses consonant sounds and a few simple words (examples: “mama”, “baba” for bottle)


Social & Language Milestones at age 18 months

Social Milestone:

  • Plays pretend with dolls or stuffed animals
  • Imitates words you say and actions in play

Language Milestones:

  • Uses at least 10 words
  • Says many different consonant sounds
  • Identifies familiar people and body parts
Social & Language Milestones at age 24 months

Social Milestone:

  • Shows interest in playing with other children
  • Puts many actions together during play (examples: stirring, pouring juice, feeding a doll)

Language Milestones:

  • Uses at least 50 words
  • Makes simple sentences such as “Mommy go outside” ,”What’s that?”
  • Identifies objects when named
Social & Language Milestones at age 36 months

Social Milestone:

  • Enjoys imaginative play with others
  • Takes turns in conversation

Language Milestones:

  • Responds to questions
  • Uses longer sentences
  • Follows two-to three-step instructions
  • Uses speech that is understood most of the time