Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Introduction

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), also known simply as Autism, is a lifelong neurological and neurodevelopmental disorder that commonly appears in early childhood. Autism affects interpersonal, social, emotional, intellectual, behavioral and communications skills. Autism is referred to as a “Spectrum Disorder” because symptoms and characteristics present uniquely with each person, varying in types of expression and degrees of severity. Some individuals with Autism have significant challenges; others are mildly impacted.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that in 2023, Autism occurred in one of every 36 births — making it among the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disabilities in the U.S.. Additionally, Autism is 420% more common in boys than girls.

There’s no known cause of Autism, and no cure, although there appears to be a genetic association. However, many treatment methodologies exist that can improve quality of life for autistic individuals and their families, from initial diagnosis through adulthood.

ASD: Characteristics

Some children with Autism Spectrum disorder may demonstrate neurodevelopmental delays early in life, while others appear to develop typically until the age of 18-30 months, when delays or regression in language, play or social interaction are suspected.

ASD: Common Traits

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder will usually exhibit many, but not necessary all, of traits listed below. The expression of these traits can be mild to severe and may vary in intensity from symptom to symptom.

ASD: Asperger Syndrome, PDD-NOS

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version 5 (DSM-5) has changed how practitioners diagnose. Asperger Syndrome and PDD-NOS are no longer separate diagnoses. Going forward, everyone who meets criteria for Autism will be given one of three severity levels.

Obtaining a Diagnosis: The Process

When family members or care providers become concerned that a child isn’t following a typical neurodevelopmental course, obtaining a comprehensive and accurate medical diagnosis is key.

Newly Diagnosed: What’s Next?

Having your child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder is emotionally devastating to parents, siblings and other family members. As a lifelong disability, Autism can alter the course of your lives.

Early Childhood Intervention

It can’t be overstated: the earlier a child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the greater short- and long-term positive impact early intervention programs can achieve.

Navigating the Educational System

Here’s the glass half full to a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Wisconsin regularly ranks among the top 10 states in the country in providing services and support to those with disabilities.


The mission and vision of the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin is to create connections, empowering everyone in the Autism community with the resources needed to live fully. Creating a world where everyone in the Autism community is connected to the support they need, when they need it. 

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Disclaimer: Please note this information is not a substitute for a comprehensive, medical diagnostic assessment.

Contact Us if you need more information about Autism including where in this area to secure an assessment, or Click Here to see a listing of Diagnosis & Assessment Professionals in our Resource Directory.