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Help With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that can cause problems with thinking, feeling, language and the ability to relate to others.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

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  • Sep 15, 2017
Telepsychiatry: Advances and Challenges

The use of telepsychiatry is increasing in the primary care settings, including pediatrician’s offices, and in schools where psychiatrists or other mental health professionals can collaborate with teachers and other school staff.

  • Aug 31, 2017
School-based Mental Health Programs Proving Effective

Just as children across the country head back to school, new research shows that the growing number of school-based mental health programs are effective in helping students.

  • Aug 16, 2017
Mental Health in Media and Entertainment

Mental illness is an issue that touches many lives, so it’s no wonder that it is often featured in entertainment media. What is the best way to address mental health in the media?

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How early can autism be identified? What should parents do if they are concerned their young child may have autism?

Some of the signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be noticed before the age of 1, although a reliable diagnosis by an autism specialist can be made in children as young as 18 months of age. Unfortunately many children end up waiting until after their 4th birthday to be diagnosed with ASD. Delays in seeking an initial assessment and limited access to specialists are just a couple of factors that help to explain this delay. Children who have less severe ASD, or are from minority backgrounds, tend to be diagnosed later than those with severe symptoms. Researchers are developing ways of being able to diagnose autism at even younger ages, such as using eye tracking technologies. The diagnosis of autism is typically based on a clinical examination, which is often supported with other information and tests. There is no single scan or blood test that can independently diagnose autism.

My advice to parents is to trust their gut instinct when they are worried about their child and to seek the advice of their primary care pediatrician. This general assessment may then lead to a referral to a specialist who will perform a more comprehensive evaluation. Parents should also feel empowered to ask for a specialist opinion if they do not feel adequately reassured by a primary care evaluation. More

Can children “grow out” of autism?

A small minority of children show considerable improvement in their ASD symptoms following diagnosis. While ASD has historically been considered a life-long condition, recent research has shown that the outcomes associated with an ASD diagnosis can vary considerably. Some people who were diagnosed with ASD in their youth may improve dramatically, and show little difference to people who have never had the diagnosis.

Whether these individuals “grew out” of autism, or simply responded exceptionally well to the therapeutic interventions, remains up for debate. One should also question if the initial diagnosis of ASD was accurate in these cases. At the moment it is difficult to identify which children will “grow out” of autism, although those who have less severe symptoms and those who obtain early access to the appropriate therapies appear to have better outcomes. More


About the Expert:

Arshya Vahabzadeh, M.D.
Vice President, Health Strategy and Communications
Brain Power, LLC


Adam’s Story

Adam, a 12-year-old boy, was brought in by his mother for psychiatric evaluation. He had temper tantrums that were causing problems for him at school. She said that school had always been stressful for Adam and that it had become worse after he entered middle school.

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Editor's Choice

AUG 7, 2017

Autism After 18 keeps growing to help young adults become independent

The Herald

Margaret and Erik Neelsen co-founded the nonprofit organization Autism After 18 in May 2016 to help young adults with autism to function independently. With the help of many friends, family and volunteers, they started Autism After 18 with the mission “Unlocking life’s potential for young adults with autism.”

AUG 4, 2017

As the Number of children with Autism Grow, so do awareness and special places to play

Awareness of this complex condition has grown as have the number of children believed to have it. Also growing, however, is the number of recreational and cultural institutions welcoming children on the spectrum and their families. Philadelphia’s major league sports teams host autism awareness events. Other kid meccas like the Please Touch Museum, the Garden State Discovery Museum, the Adventure Aquarium and the Philadelphia Zoo are among the places that offer programs and accommodations for ASD children.

AUG 5, 2017

No one person can speak for all on the autistic spectrum

The Spectator

Naoki Higashida has found an ingenious way to express himself. But it won’t necessarily help others with autism. If we accept that autism is a very broad spectrum, can we not accept that some autistic people may also have profound intellectual disabilities that preclude learning language? We can learn a lot from those like Higashida who describe brilliantly how autism affects them, but surely we can also embrace the many autistic people who will never achieve his fluency and value them regardless?