Learn About Autism

What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability with signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness, early diagnosis/intervention, and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes.

Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills and sensory sensitivities.  A person on the spectrum might exhibit many of these behaviors or just a few, and/or many others besides.

New to Autism

New to Autism

The Autism Society of Wisconsin is here to help guide families who have a child newly diagnosed with autism. Our Next Program can help your family understand what this new diagnosis means, find community resources, and find emotional support. Call our office today to receive a free resource package and/or to connect with other parents who have been down a similar path. 

A printed copy of our Next Step booklet is included in the resource package but is also available electronically.

Milestone Map

Track Your Child's Developmental Milestones

The journey of your child's early years includes many developmental milestones for how he or she plays, learns, speaks, and acts.

Use this map to learn what to look for in your child. Talk with your child's doctor about these milestones.

Not reaching these milestones, or reaching them much later than other children, could be a sign of a developmental delay.

What are some of the characteristics of ASDs?

People with ASDs may have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASDs also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things.

May not understand imagination or play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll)

May not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over)

May spin objects or themselves

May have trouble turning attention when directed to

May have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all

May avoid eye contact or prefer to be alone

May have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings

May avoid physical contact

May not imitate others

May appear to be unaware when other people talk to them but respond to other sounds

Might be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them

Might repeat or echo words or phrases in place of normal language (echolalia)

May have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions

May have trouble adapting when a routine changes

Might have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

May have difficulty entering conversations and taking turns within conversations

May interpret language in the literal sense (may not understand figurative language such as “Let’s hit the road”)

If you are concerned about your child’s development, don’t wait – contact your health care provider for an evaluation.

Autism Across the Lifespan

Autism Across the Lifespan

Like everyone else, people with autism move through significant life changes. Their quality of life depends not only on the foundation provided in childhood, but also on ongoing supports that are specific to their educational, medical, social, recreational, family, and employment needs. The Autism Society supports people with autism and their families through five critical stages of life:

  • Birth to Five
  • School Age
  • Transition to Adulthood
  • Adulthood 
  • Older Adult