What is Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder

“Autism is a developmental disability that causes problems with social skills and communication. Autism can be mild or severe. It is different for every person. Autism is also known as autism spectrum disorders.” (ASHA). Autism is considered to be part of a group of disorders (Autism Spectrum Disorders). These disorders have similar characteristics but differing severity levels and unique presentations. 

What are the characteristics of Autism? 

Autism is characterized by deficits in three main areas: 

 Receptive and expressive communication 
 Pragmatic language and social interactions 
 Restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviors 

How is Autism Diagnosed? 

Autism is typically diagnosed by a team of professionals including pediatricians, psychologists, developmental specialists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. A speech-language pathologist is a very important part of the diagnostic team given the inherent deficits in receptive and expressive communication and social skills. 


The Center for Speech and Language Pathology treats people of all ages with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Treatment approaches and goals vary based on the age of the person. For young children, we follow Stanley Greenspan’s Floortime approach to treatment. Using this model of treatment, clinicians follow the child’s lead while developing engagement and communicative interactions in a highly naturalistic and play-based manner. For older children and adults, a more structured language-based and skill-based approach is implemented. 

What are the goals for treatment? 

Young Children 

 Joint attention and engagement 
 Sustaining attention 
 Eye contact and social reciprocity 
 Two-way communication 
 Use of language during moments of heightened anxiety and frustration 
 Development of pretend play skills 

School-Age Children 

 Social stories 
 Theory of mind 
 Initiating social interactions 
 Turn taking 
 Topic maintenance 
 Problem solving 
 Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) 
 Inferencing 
 Behavior management 
 Proxemics 
 Sequencing events 


 Functional social routines 
 Activities of daily living 
 Problem solving 
 Social skills