Conditions we treat

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Developmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can have an enormous impact on people, families, and communities. Our goal is to give you the tools you need to manage your diagnosis and lead a fulfilling life.

how & why

Our highly trained, compassionate clinicians are here to help.

As the name suggests, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) does not describe a single, easy-to-define condition but rather a number of related but distinct conditions that can vary in severity. Conditions that were once thought to be separate disorders – such as PDD-NOS, Aspberger’s, and Autism – are now regarded as related pieces of the autism spectrum. Like other developmental disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder can impact people in a variety of ways, from speech and language to social skills and more.

Estimates suggest that autism affects about 1% of the world’s population. In the United States, 1 in 54 children will be diagnosed with autism, with boys being four times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with the disorder.

If you believe that you or someone you care about might be experiencing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you are not alone. Keep reading to learn more about:

  • What is autism?
  • What are the signs and symptoms of autism?
  • What causes autism?
  • How is autism treated?

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact emergency services or reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s free, confidential, 24/7 national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for immediate assistance.

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What is 

Autism Spectrum Disorder


Developmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder are conditions that arise during a person’s developmental period and can impair their physical, social, mental, and behavioral development. Developmental disorders such as autism typically affect a person for their whole life.

Every person with autism develops differently, has different strengths, and faces different challenges. Autism Spectrum Disorder is often accompanied by sensory sensitivity and medical problems such as:

  • Mental health challenges like anxiety and sleep disorders
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) issues
  • Seizures

Learn more about sleep disorder causes, symptoms, and treatments >>

Autism is often diagnosed early in life. Developmental delays are typically noticeable by the time a person is 2 or 3 years old, but autism can be diagnosed in children as young as 18 months.

What isn't 

Autism Spectrum Disorder


Types of 

Autism Spectrum Disorder

What are the signs and symptoms of 

Autism Spectrum Disorder


Because autism is a spectrum, the signs and symptoms of autism can vary greatly. Some people show behavioral and developmental differences in infancy. Other people with very high-functioning autism may not be diagnosed until adulthood, believing instead that they simply have social or generalized anxiety.

Learn more about anxiety causes, symptoms, and treatments >>

There are several warning signs of autism that parents and caregivers can identify in infants. Keep in mind that babies can exhibit these symptoms, but still develop typically into their toddler years and beyond.

Signs of autism in babies include:

  • No reaction to their own name by the time they are 1 year old
  • Poor eye contact
  • Poor nonverbal communication
  • Hand flapping
  • Rocking
  • No pretend play

By the time a person reaches the age of 2 or 3 years old, the developmental delays common in Autism Spectrum Disorder are usually more noticeable. Signs of autism in toddlers include:

  • Speech delays or remaining nonverbal
  • Hand flapping
  • Walking on tiptoe
  • Rocking
  • Poor eye contact
  • Difficulty engaging in play with others
  • Fixation on an object or toy
  • Obsession with routine
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Sensory sensitivity (sensitive to sounds, smells, or textures)

Our procedure for diagnosing autism has developed a great deal since autism was first added to the DSM in 1980. As a result of these changing diagnostic criteria, many people with high-functioning autism are not diagnosed until adulthood. This experience is particularly common in women, who may present with different symptoms, and people with a form of high-functioning autism formerly known as Aspberger’s.

Symptoms of autism in adults include:

  • Difficulty reading social cues and interacting in social situations
  • Difficulty relating to and building relationships with others
  • Literal; difficulty understanding jokes, sarcasm, figurative language
  • Fixation on one or two favorite subjects or topics
  • Fixation on subjects with complex details
  • Poor emotional regulation
  • Difficulty accepting change
  • Developing and following strict routines
  • Sensory sensitivity
  • Flat affect

Who can develop 

Autism Spectrum Disorder


What causes 

Autism Spectrum Disorder


Like many other complex mental health conditions, we aren’t able to pinpoint a single cause of autism. Instead, we know that a variety of genetic, biological, and environmental risk factors contribute to whether or not a person is likely to develop Autism Spectrum Disorder.

A few factors that increase a person’s risk for autism include:

  • Family history. People who have an immediate family member on the autism spectrum, like a parent or sibling, are more likely to have autism themselves
  • Exposure to certain chemicals during pregnancy. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a common cause of intellectual and developmental delays. Certain infections, medicines, heavy metals, and other toxins may also impact a person developing in utero.
  • Genetic mutations. Genetic differences such as Fragile X Syndrome can increase a person’s risk for developing Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • Birth complications. Low birthweight, premature birth, and other birth complications increase the risk of developmental differences.
  • Infections and illnesses. Newborn jaundice as well as some viral infections have been linked to Autism Spectrum Disorder.

How is 

Autism Spectrum Disorder


While there is no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder, experts have developed a number of therapies to help people with autism manage their symptoms and achieve the highest quality of life possible. Treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder might include:

  • ABA. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy uses action and reward to help people with autism learn and reinforce new behaviors. This therapy is controversial within autism communities.
  • CBT. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other behavioral therapies can help people understand their developmental differences, learn positive behaviors, and cope with the emotional impact of neurodivergence.
  • Play therapy. Play and social interaction can be challenging for children with autism. Play therapy allows people with autism to engage in play in a controlled, supportive environment.
  • Speech therapy. People with developmental differences may have difficulty with speech or language. Speech therapy can help them develop an understanding of figurative language, conversational etiquette, and how to remain engaged with a conversational partner.
  • TMS therapy. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-drug, non-invasive treatment that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate certain areas of the brain. TMS is being explored for its potential in diagnosing and treating Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Autism Spectrum Disorder can have a huge impact on individuals, their families, and their communities. Our mental health specialists are here to help.

At Transformations Care Network, we are dedicated to helping people in our communities access life-changing mental health care. If you believe that you are experiencing a developmental disorder such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, contact us today to learn what our compassionate care providers can do for you.