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Autism And Autistic Spectrum Disorders

What is Autistic Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which means that it impacts how a child develops. Autism begins in utero, although children with ASD might not be diagnosed until they are older, when signs of the disorder become more apparent.

autism spectrum disorder asd aspergers children child cary nc raleigh

While there used to be three types of ASD to include Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), there is currently a single diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, with varying specifiers for level of impairment, and related intellectual or language deficits. Autism spectrum disorder is called a spectrum because individuals with Autism may have a wide range of symptoms,cognitive abilities, language skills and behaviors.

When discussing autism, people tend to use different terminology. Some people prefer to use a “person-first” approach and will say “a child with autism.” However other people, including many self-advocates, will use the term “autistic.” This is “identity first” language. Some individuals believe that using the phrase “with autism” implies autism is negative versus a natural and integral part of a person’s identity that corresponds with many strengths. We use both phrases to acknowledge the diversity of opinions on this matter. In addition, although the term Asperger’s disorder is technically outdated per current diagnostic criteria, there are many people who continue to use the term to describe Autistic individuals who are without language or cognitive impairment.

What are Symptoms of Autism?

Symptoms of ASD typically appear in early childhood – usually before age 3. However, in some cases, an individual will not be diagnosed with Autism until later in life when their difficulties become more apparent in day to day life. In general, autism symptoms typically fall into two categories: Difficulties in social skills and communication and the presence of restricted or repetitive behaviors (including sensory challenges). It’s important to keep in mind that autism is considered to fall on a spectrum due to the significant variance among symptoms, language skills, cognitive abilities, and behaviors.

Prevalence rates indicate that males tend to be diagnosed with autism at a higher rate compared to females which may be related, in part, due to the fact that females don’t typically fit the standard mold of the diagnostic criteria. Some reasons for this include that autistic females tend to “mask” their symptoms and are good at imitating what they see around them (such as eye contact or some social interaction skills). In some cases, females with autism may be diagnosed with other conditions first such as anxiety, low self-esteem, or depression.

Autism in Children and Adolescents

Autism is a disorder that severely affects a child's ability to communicate and interact with others. Children with autism generally have problems with social interaction, language, and behavior. But because symptoms vary greatly, two children with the same diagnosis may act quite differently and have strikingly different skills. Many children show signs of autism in early infancy. Others may develop typically for the first few years of life but then suddenly become withdrawn, aggressive or lose language skills they've already acquired. Young children may have a hard time sharing experiences with others. As they mature, some autistic children become more engaged with others and show less marked disturbances in behavior, particularly with early intervention. Others continue to have great difficulty with language or social skills, resulting in the worsening of behavior problems during adolescence. Individuals with autism can display a range of intellectual abilities. An extremely small number of individuals are "autistic savants," having exceptional skills in specific areas such as art, math, or music.

Though each Autistic child is likely to have a unique pattern of behavior, these characteristics are common signs of the disorder:

Signs of Autism in Younger Children (under age three):

  • Fails to respond to his or her name
  • Poor eye contact
  • Preference for solitary play
  • Difficulties with shared attention
  • Appears not to hear you at times
  • Fails to use gestures to communicate
  • Resists cuddling and holding
  • Delays in speech or language
  • Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences
  • May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car

Signs of Autism in Older Children and Adolescents:

  • Appears unaware of others' feelings or lack empathy
  • Seems to prefer playing alone or retreats into their "own world"
  • Speaks with abnormal tone or rhythm – may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
  • May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn't understand how to use them (echolalia)
  • Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning, or hand-flapping
  • Develops specific routines or rituals
  • May be unusually sensitive to light, sound, and touch, yet oblivious to pain
  • Dislike changes in routine
  • Not able to pick up on social cues such as reading others' body language
  • Have trouble with starting, maintaining, or taking turns in a conversation (one-sided conversations are common)
  • Speak formally or use more advanced words for his or her age (e.g. uses the word "beckon" instead of "call" or "return" instead of "come back")
  • Have unusual facial expressions or postures
  • Talk excessively about, be preoccupied with, and be very knowledgeable about a favorite subject or a few select interests
  • Have delayed or awkward gross or fine motor skills
  • Have heightened sensory sensitivities and become overstimulated by loud noises, lights, strong tastes, or textures

How to Help a Loved One with Autism

The first step to helping those with autistic spectrum disorder is diagnosis. Check out our Autism Testing page to learn more about this evaluation, and the range of subsequent therapy, social skills, and parent coaching services we offer to help your family.




Autism Resources & Articles

Children Resources

  • Is your child ready for kindergarten

    Having the legislature set a date for kindergarten eligibility doesn’t keep parents from struggling with the question of whether or not their individual child is ready to start school.

  • What You Should Know About Free Range Parenting

    Would you let your 10-year-old take a public bus alone? Or would you allow your 7-year-old to ride in an elevator without you? Many parents who embrace so-called free-range parenting would say, "Why not?"

  • Early entry to Kindergarten - DCDC Podcast

    Discovery Child Development Center Podcast Episode 27 - Early entry to Kindergarten - Dr. Kristen Wynns of Wynns Family Psychology (Cary and North Raleigh) joins us to discuss the process of early entry into kindergarten, as well as factors parents should weigh when considering early entry.

  • NBC17 My Carolina - Wynns discusses early Kindergarten

    Dr. Kristen Wynns from Wynns Family Psychology joins us with some expert advice on how to determine if your kid is ready to start Kindergarten in the fall, She’s also sharing details on an upcoming Kindergarten Fair where you can find all the help, resources and FREE screenings you’ll need.

  • - Kindergarten Readiness Redshirt or Enroll

    Determining the right time to enroll your future kindergartner

  • Is Your Tween In a Relationship?

    If so, it's important to be clear about your rules.

  • Does Long-standing Sibling Rivalry Really Have An Impact On A Marriage?

    So where does sibling rivalry start in the first place? According to academic professionals at the University of Michigan Health System, the most fundamental effect and characteristic of sibling rivalry is jealousy. Constant arguments between siblings create a strong feeling of tension in the household that's felt by everyone. It's also been suggested that rivalry between siblings has...

  • No Wimpy Parenting

    Is There a Difference Between Teasing and Bullying?

  • Oppositional Defiance Disorder

    How to identify and manage a child who has it

  • A Little Confidence Goes a Long Way

    Raising confident teens and tweens

  • Survival Skills Camps

    Go beyond basic training

  • Family Meetings – Ugh!

    It would be nice to sit down with everyone for dinner or a discussion, but with everyone’s busy lives, is rounding up the family for some time together even possible? Dr. Kristen Wynns returns to the show to share her tips on working family time into a hectic schedule and discusses the importance of regular family communication (including the kids) on your marriage.

  • Coping With Your Child's Behavioral And Emotional Issues

    Children can place stress on any marriage, and when kids are dealing with behavioral or emotional problems, it can often be even more trying on the parents. Dr. Kristen Wynns returns to discuss some of the differences between chronic problems and those that are a natural part of development, as well as what parents can do to make sure the special needs of their children don’t take a toll on...

  • The Effects Of Marital Conflict On Your Kids

    Is conflict in your marriage taking a toll on your children? Even if the arguments take place behind closed doors, they can still impact your kids. Dr. Kristen Wynns discusses some tactics parents often use without realizing the effects and how parents can resolve conflicts in a constructive manner that provides a positive behavioral model for their children.

  • The No Wimpy Parenting Handbook

    An Easy Guide For Reclaiming Your Parenting Power. Are you frustrated and at the end of your rope when it comes to parenting? The No Wimpy Parenting Handbook is a must-have resource for parents who are tired of having no power in their own homes! The No Wimpy Parenting handbook is meant to empower parents with easy tips and effective strategies to transform their homes. There is an epidemic...

  • When Your Kid Sees the Glass Half Empty

    Does your child or teen tend to take a negative perspective on every schoolyard scenario?

  • Counsel on Giving Counsel

    Even though offering up good advice seems like a prerequisite for being a good friend, it's sometimes harder than we think.

  • When Your Kids are Begging for a Pet

    There are countless upsides to owning a furry friend (other than all the cuddles & kisses). Taking care of a pet has been shown to help children feel compassion for animals, people, and even themselves. In this hectic world, it's also nice that petting a dog or cat is linked to lower stress and better mental health. But before you run to a shelter or pet shop, ask yourself:

Resource Library

View all of the Wynns Family Psychology resource content in the main Resources section. Articles, webinars, videos and more!.
WFP Resource Library

Get In Touch - Information & Scheduling

Call 919-467-7777 or email to schedule an appointment or to learn more about our therapy services, testing services, social skills groups, custody services, and team of psychologists and therapists. You can also complete our new client inquiry form to get started.

Most new clients are scheduled for their first full appointment at the Cary, Raleigh, or Greensboro, NC office locations within one to two weeks of calling. We also offer telehealth for those who prefer to have virtual sessions from home, school, or the office.

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