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Autism Facts and Signs

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

People with ASD may communicate, interact, behave and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

About 53,000 Orange County school children have a disability. Of those, nearly one in five have ASD. In 10 years, ASD diagnoses in Orange County have more than doubled.

Nationally, about one in 68 children has been identified with ASD, according to estimates from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It has been reported in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and it is 4.5 times more common among boys (one in 42) than among girls (one in 189).

Signs and Symptoms

According to the CDC, signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.

Individuals with ASD may:

  • Not point at objects to show interest (for example, not pointing at an airplane flying overhead)
  • Not look at objects when another person points to them
  • Have trouble relating to others or not show interest in other people at all
  • Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • Prefer not to be held or cuddled, or cuddle only when they choose
  • Appear to be unaware when people talk to them but respond to other sounds
  • Be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play or relate to others
  • Repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
  • Have trouble expressing their needs with typical words or motions
  • Not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)
  • Repeat actions over and over again
  • Have trouble adapting when a routine changes
  • Have unusual reactions to how things smell, taste, look, feel or sound
  • Lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they had been using)

For more information about our ASD and related services, visit the Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders website at

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