By Annette Pinder

According to the Autism Science Foundation (ASF), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a brain-based disorder characterized by social-communication challenges and restricted and repetitive behaviors, activities, and interests. ASF notes that typical ASD behaviors include a lack of interest in others, and repetitive behaviors such as arm flapping and body rocking. ASD is found in all racial, ethnic, and social groups, and affects boys 4 times more often than it does girls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 44 eight-year-old children were identified with ASD in 2021.

People with ASD are typically resistant to change and highly dependent on routines. ASD affects learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities. About 40% of individuals with profound autism also usually have severe cognitive impairments and require around-the-clock care, while others can have high-powered jobs and live independently. Between 30 to 50% percent of people with autism also have seizures.

One of the largest studies of autism was conducted by Sven Sandin, an epidemiological researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Involving over 2 million people across five countries, Sandlin found that 80% of autism spectrum disorders come from inherited genes and 20% from environmental causes. Environmental factors studied included medical conditions in parents, age, toxic chemicals, medications taken during pregnancy and before pregnancy, and diet and nutrition. According to ASF, any association between autism and vaccines has long been disproven, as scientists know that autism starts before birth, even possibly before conception, and that vaccines do not cause autism.

Medical experts agree that diagnosing ASD early can be critical to a child’s future success, and strongly recommend contacting a pediatrician upon observation of symptoms. To see a developmental milestones checklist provided by the CDC visit However, having these symptoms does not automatically confirm a diagnosis.

If you do receive an autism diagnosis ASF recommends acting early to achieve the best outcomes for your child, noting that all states are required to provide early intervention services until children are 3 years old, after which they receive services from their school district. An important intervention for children with deficits is speech therapy with a licensed speech-language pathologist. For those with sensory and motor deficits, occupational therapy helps teach important life skills, and physical therapy helps improve gross motor skills and sensory integration issues.

There are no FDA approved medications for ASD, although there are some clinical trials underway to help lessen some behavioral symptoms of ASD such as irritability, aggression, and self-harming behaviors. There are, however, several evidence-based therapies for autism. The most popular therapies here in Buffalo are Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and DIR-Floortime® Therapy. Learn about these therapies at Also, learn more about what is happening here in Western New York, including an upcoming virtual workshop taking place on April 23, 2022, from 8:45 am to 12:45 pm titled “Building a Tookkit to Support Executive Functions Skills” by visiting the Autism Society of WNY website at Register to attend at the website, or call 716-633-2275.