What Is Autism?

Search Knowledge Base by Keyword

What Is Autism?

You are here:
< Back

What Is Autism?

Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder. This means it becomes apparent in early childhood and affects all aspects of a child’s development. The word Autism was first used as a diagnosis in 1943, by Dr. Leo Kanner (Kanner, 1943) of Maryland’s Johns Hopkins Hospital, after studying 11 children he diagnosed to have early infantile Autism. According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 59 children have been identified with Autism spectrum disorder. Prevalence of Autism in U.S. children increased by 119.4% from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68). (CDC, 2014) Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability and is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls. (Autism Society of America)

A diagnosis of Autism is given when three specific areas of development are significantly affected. These three areas are known as the “triad of impairments”. They are: social development, communication and repetitious behaviors and restricted interests (American Psychological Association, 1994, World Health Organizations, 1994). More specifically, people with Autism tend to be challenged by the ability to understand other’s perspectives or even attribute mental states to other people (often knows as mind-blindness or lack of Theory of Mind) and may display a lack of empathy. Communication challenges may range from no use of language to the lack of ability to have fluid, creative conversations. Repetitious behaviors (often referred to as “stims”) may be patterns of motor movements (fine or gross motor), repeated verbal lines (often called “scripting”) or involve unusual sensory stimulations (e.g. spinning or dropping objects or watching movement). Other children with Autism may have more usual interests but have an unusually restricted range of interests or become obsessive about a few interests. These developmental differences tend to become apparent between 18 and 36 months of age (see Early Symptoms of Autism).

Positive Characteristics and Strengths of Autistic People

People with Autism can be characterized not only by these areas of challenge but also by significant areas of strength. Many people with Autism are superior at what is known as systemizing, that is, “the drive to analyze objects and events, to understand their structure and predict their future behavior” (Baron-Cohen, 2005, pp. 110). This may be exhibited as an intense interest in train time-tables, for example, or an almost intuitive sense of how to program a computer. Other cognitive patterns have emerged through research. For example, people with Autism tend to show an above-average awareness of details and ability to segment stimuli (e.g. Happe, 1999). Some people with Autism have superior abilities in discrete areas such as mathematics, music or art (often referred to as islets of ability).

The Autism Spectrum

Autism is a spectrum disorder, now more commonly referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This means there is a wide variety of severity of Autism. Some people with ASD are highly verbal and conversational while others may not use any verbal forms of communication. Similarly, some people with ASD are very withdrawn from all forms of social interaction while others have families and jobs. People with ASD test as having a wide range of IQs.

ASD has traditionally been thought of as a psychological or behavioral disorder. Some early theorists assumed it to be caused by emotionally withdrawn parenting (i.e. “refrigerator mothers” Bettelheim, 1967). This idea was long ago discredited. A diagnosis of ASD is still made on the basis of behavioral observation. There is currently no genetic, chemical or neurological test for Autism although all of these things have been shown to be instrumental in the etiology of the disorder (see Possible Causes). There is now a lot of evidence that ASD is primarily a neuro-biological disorder. That is, that the characteristic social, communicative and repetitious behaviors from which the disorder is diagnosed are the developmental consequences of a brain that is fundamentally wired and organized differently (e.g. Baron-Cohen, 2005). To date however, there is not clear, agreed-upon cause of Autism. Consequently approaches to treatment can vary widely (see Autism Treatment).

Have any questions? Ask an Autism Expert

Contact us for a complimentary priority call with a Son-Rise Program Advisor & free Autism resources.

CONTACT US

Our Commitment to Privacy

The Autism Treatment Center of America® (a division of The Option Institute & Fellowship®) are committed to your privacy. This notice serves to help you better understand what information we collect, how we use that information, and with whom we may share a limited portion of that information. If you have questions or concerns regarding this policy, you should contact Customer Support by email psupport@option.org.

We know that you value your personal information, and we strive to protect your privacy as if it were our own. The Autism Treatment Center of America (a division of The Option Institute & Fellowship) uses of your information is limited to the ways outlined in this notice, except as required by law and/or to comply with a judicial proceeding, court order, or legal process served on us.

Information We Collect From You

  1. Online Contact and Info Requests: If you submit an online request for Option Institute products such as free brochures, or submit a question through a “Contact Us” or “Call-Me” form, we may have to gather additional information from you to respond to your request. Such information will include name, shipping address, telephone number, and email address.
  2. Non-Personal Information We Receive Automatically: Like most websites, we utilize cookies. Cookies are a mechanism to remember information about you when you navigate from one web page to another. Our website uses cookies to hold a user’s unique session identifiers, allowing us to serve correct information back to the user. Such information may include your language and currency. Our website cookies do not hold any personally identifiable information. We may use other similar technologies that allow us to collect non-personally identifiable information about your visit to help us better your experience.

Lawful Basis For Processing Your Data

  1. Consent: We will not process any personal information unless you agree to our Privacy policy and freely give consent to process your information for the purpose of your request.
  2. Fulfillment of Requests: We only store and process your information for the purpose of your request. Your information is removed and no longer processed after the request has been fulfilled. If you have also freely consented to receive marketing or promotional communications via a request form or registration form, we will retain your information until you revoke your consent or unsubscribe from receiving those communications via the instructions located at the bottom of all our emails.

Sharing of Your Data

  1. If we are required by law: we will disclose information about you in response to a subpoena, court order, or other legitimate governmental request.
  2. We will only share your data with third party service providers such as email services to facilitate fulfilment of your information or contact request. None of your information will be processed or stored by any third party if you choose to revoke your consent or submit a request to be forgotten.
  3. We do not share or distribute your information with any other third parties for any purposes other than the purposes you freely consent to.

Use Of Information Collected From You

  1. Information Requests and Customer Service: After submitting information to us via our online forms, your contact information including your email address will be used to respond to that request. After you submit online information requests to us, you may, from time to time, receive email or other communications from us or our service providers with information including information about our upcoming programs or products if you choose to agree to receive those communications. If you do not wish to receive these communications, you are able to opt out of at any time by following the unsubscribe link found in the email.
  2. Third-Party Service Providers: We work closely with other companies and individuals to facilitate transactions and better your experience. Examples of third-party service provider services include shipping orders, analyzing data, providing accurate search results and links, affiliate marketing, and newsletters. Any information that we share with a third-party service provider is done so safely, securely, and under a contractual relationship with that provider to protect your data.
  3. Promotional events: From time to time, we or a service provider acting on our behalf may use your name, email address, telephone number and/or mailing address to send you information or offers for a program, product or other service we believe to be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive these communications, you are able to opt out of at any time by following the unsubscribe link found in the email.

Data Retention Policy

We maintain a data retention policy to protect your data. Information collected on our website will be retained for as long as necessary to fulfill the purpose for which it was collected.

How We Secure Your Information

We are committed to protecting the security of your personal information and to honoring your choices for its intended use. To prevent unauthorized access, maintain data accuracy, and ensure the correct use of information, we strive to maintain physical, electronic, and administrative safeguards. We use industry standard security protocol such as encryption and https security protocol to protect your information.
Any time we share your information with a third party consistent with this Privacy Policy, we utilize technological or contractual safeguards in an effort to keep your information safe.
While we are confident ordering online is safe and secure, if for any reason you cannot access the secure server or feel uncomfortable ordering online, please feel free to place your order with us by phone at 877-766-7473 or +001-413-229-2100.
At any time you wish to opt out of receiving promotional mailings, you may call or email Customer Service (psupport@option.org).

Your Rights

At any time, you can use the following request form https://gdpr.autismtreatmentcenter.org/ to request any of the following:

  1. Confirm whether or not personal data about you is being processed.
  2. Provide you with further details about how we process your personal data.
  3. Provide you with a copy of any data which we hold about you.
  4. Withdraw your consent to using your personal information, where we rely on your consent as a legal basis to justify using your personal data.
  5. Consider any valid objection to the processing of your personal information (including the right to object to processing on grounds related to your particular situation where we are relying on our legitimate interests as a legal basis for processing).
  6. Request to update or delete personal data which we hold about you.
  7. Restrict the way that we process your personal data.
  8. Consider any valid request to transfer your personal data to a third party provider of services (data portability).

We will consider all requests. However, certain personal information may be exempt from those requests in certain circumstances, which include a need to keep processing information for our legitimate interests or to comply with a legal obligation. If such an exception applies, we will notify you when responding to your request. Please note that we may ask you to provide us with information necessary to confirm your identity before responding.

Policy Updates

We reserve the right to update the above policy at any time. If we decide to change our Privacy Policy, we will post the updates to this Privacy Policy here and on any other place we deem appropriate, so that you are aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it.