Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can affect a child’s or adult’s social skills, communication, and behavior. Most children on the autism spectrum may experience delays in social and communication skills in the first year of life.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a medical diagnosis of ASD is made based on a parent’s description of their child’s development, plus careful observations of certain behaviors by a pediatrician, autism experts, medical tests, and the child’s history. The medical diagnosis is further described in this video.

Schools cannot diagnose children with ASD. Instead, schools determine if a child meets eligibility criteria for specific developmental disabilities and delays categories. For example, when a child is evaluated for Special Education Services and an Individualized Educational Program (IEP), the school team determines if the child meets eligibility criteria for categories such as Autism or other developmental disabilities and delays. This video explains more about school evaluations.

Research shows that starting an intervention program as soon as possible can improve outcomes for many children on the autism spectrum. More information about early intervention can be found at the Alaska Infant Learning Program.

CDC: Learn the Signs. Act Early helps parents track their child’s development and milestones from birth to 5 years old.

3 Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder describes the early signs of autism spectrum disorder in young children.

ASD affects each person differently, meaning that individuals with ASD have unique strengths and challenges and different treatment needs. There may be many ways to help minimize the symptoms and maximize abilities. More evidence-based treatment and therapy information is available at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This resource outlines  Evidence-Based Practices for children with ASD in the school setting.

There are several resources and organizations providing support for adults with ASD.

Autism Acceptance: resources and information on becoming an ally

Autism Speaks: specific resources and activities for adults (22+)

Autistic Self Advocacy Network: advocacy tools and educational resources  

Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network: community support and resources for Autistic women and nonbinary people

Association for Autism and Neurodiversity: resources and information, group services, training

UW Autism Center – Adult Resources: resources for adults

Alaska Autism Research Center (AARC): local activities, resources and information

Autism Navigator: guide for families and professionals supporting children’s learning and development

Autism Society: national organization providing resources and advocacy

Autism Speaks: information and activities for children with ASD, including the 100-Day Kit resource

Healthy Children: articles and resources provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)