Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder that, put in the simplest terms possible, impacts an individuals ability to communicate. ASD typically presents in children during the first three years of development. Autism has a defining set of behaviors, however it’s a "spectrum disorder” because it includes a wide variety of symptoms and affects individuals in many ways and to different degrees of severity. To quote the Autism Society of American’s website: "Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities.” Keep in mind though that because Autism is a spectrum disorder, a person may experience some of these, all of these, or none of these and have other symptoms or behaviors. And the severity of the behaviors will vary depending on the individual. At times it can sound pretty hopeless for someone diagnosed with ASD, but there are hundred of thousands of people "on the spectrum" who are able to function in society successfully. This can include achieving advanced degrees, holding successful careers, even finding love and raising families. One way you can ensure your child achieves a successful life is to get them the help they need EARLY, which means identifying early signs of ASD. Here are some signs to look for in your child. ● Lack of or delay in spoken language ● Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects) ● Little or no eye contact ● Lack of interest in peer relationships ● Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play ● Persistent fixation on parts of objects ASD affects more than the individual on the spectrum, but their friends and family as well. My cousin has been diagnosed with ASD and I've had friends throughout my life who have been "on the spectrum". There is so much more we have to learn about ASD, and the first step is making sure those affected get the help they need.