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What is Autism?

The following information was compiled as a capstone project by graduate student Kelsey McGuffey:

What is autism?

Autism is a complex developmental disability. It is often characterized by difficulties with social interactions, communication, and behavior. It may be accompanied by difficulties in motor coordination and attention, and physical issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal issues. The prevalence of Autism has doubled in the past ten years; the Center for Disease Control states that 1 in 68 children in the United States have been identified with autism spectrum disorder. Many question the cause of autism, and the current answer is unknown. However, many studies have shown that autism may be the result of a variety of factors. These factors include a combination of autism “risk genes”, biologic conditions, and environmental factors that contribute to brain development.

Why is it often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder?

            Autism is often referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder because there is such a wide range of severity within the disorder. No one person diagnosed with autism is the same as another; it is an individualized disorder that has many different puzzle pieces. The severity of communication difficulties ranges from difficulties with only social interactions to being nonverbal.

What are the signs and symptoms of autism?

Difficulty with communication, such as...

o   Understanding and using gestures

o   Understanding and using words

o   Following directions

o   Having conversations

o   Learning to read and write


Difficulty with social interactions, such as...

o   Sharing a common interest

o   Playing with others

o   Sharing toys

o   Understanding or expressing feelings

o   Making and maintaining friends

Obsessive interests

Repetitive behaviors

Common behaviors may include...

o   Trouble with transition

o   Flapping hands

o   Sensitive to sounds or smells

o   Have limited interests

How is Autism diagnosed?

            There is presently no test to diagnose autism. However, the diagnosis is determined by a group of professionals that administer autism-specific behavioral assessments. These tests are administered by physicians, psychologists or a child-development specialist.

            Many parents report that when they voice their concerns of autism with their physician that they are brushed off. If you are concerned about your child’s development, you may want to seek a second opinion if your child’s primary physician does not answer all of your questions. Early diagnosis leads to early intervention, which has been proven to be beneficial to those with Autism Spectrum Disorders.



What kind of services are available for those with autism?

            There are many services that are available for those with autism. The following list includes some of the professionals that provide services for those with autism:

·         Psychologist

·         Primary Care Physician

·         Speech-Language Pathologist

·         Occupational Therapist

·         Physical Therapist

·         Equine Therapist

·         Recreational Therapist

·         Music Therapist

The link below provides many different resources for the state of Kentucky:

What kind of services does the Eastern Kentucky University Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic provide for those with autism?

            The Eastern Kentucky University Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic (EKU SLHC) provides a variety of services for those with autism. These services include but are not limited to therapy focusing on appropriate social interactions, literacy, and both receptive and expressive language. The EKU SLHC can provide complete language evaluations to determine what therapy should target. All therapy conducted at the EKU SLHC is provided by either a Senior Clinician or a Graduate Clinician. These clinicians are supervised by a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist. For more information regarding the EKU SLHC visit our website ( or give us a call at 859-622-4444.

Helpful Websites




Completed by: Kelsey McGuffey, B.S.


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