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A closer look at Autism Spectrum Disorder

More... Autism Society of America | Texas Chapters - National Institute on Mental Health

The term "autism" was first used more than 50 years ago by a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Leo Kanner was describing a group of children who were self-absorbed and who had severe social, communication, and behavioral problems. No one knows what causes autism. Considered a pervasive developmental disability, autism occurs in about one in 150 children in the United States have autism according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC). Autism is three to four times more prevalent in boys than girls and 50 times more frequent in siblings. Parents with one child with autism have a 5%-10% chance of having another child with autism. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Autism is defined by significant impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests. One person with autism may have very different symptoms and behaviors than another. Because of these differences, doctors now think of autism as a "spectrum disorder” or a group of disorders with a range of similar features. Some children with autism go through the developmental stages of talking, crawling, and walking while others are delayed. Even those children with autism who progress regularly begin to show symptoms by the age of 3 and lasts throughout a person's life.

Autism sometimes shows up at birth with babies arching their back away from their caregiver and staying stiff (failing to go limp) when held. As infants, they are often described as passive or agitated. Some manifestations of autism include rocking to and fro, head-banging, self flagellation, hand-biting, poor sleeping patterns, eating problems, poor eye contact, insensitivity to pain, attention deficits, and hyperactivity or under-activity.

Many people with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) also have unusual ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to different sensations. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary – from gifted to severely challenged. They might repeat certain behaviors or perseverate on certain things. For example, people with ASDs may spend a lot of time repeatedly flapping their arms or rocking from side to side. They might repeatedly turn a light on and off or spin the wheels of a toy car in front of their eyes. These types of activities are known as self-stimulation or “stimming.”

People with ASDs might have trouble changing their daily routine. A change in the normal pattern of the day, like a stop on the way home from school, can be very upsetting or frustrating to people with ASDs. They may lose control or tantrum, especially if they are in a strange place. Some people with ASDs develop routines that might seem unusual or unnecessary. For example, a person may always want to watch a video in its entirety - from the previews at the beginning through the credits at the end. Not being allowed to do these types of routines may cause severe frustration and tantrums.

Another element is the child's apparent inability to relate to others through hugs and physical affection. Instead of accepting hugs and touches, children with autism often draw away and react from being touched. However, many children and adults with autism make eye contact, show affection, smile and laugh, and show a variety of other emotions, but in varying degrees. Yet, like other children, they respond to their environment in positive and negative ways. Some symptoms may lessen as the child ages; others may disappear altogether. With appropriate intervention, many behaviors of autistism can be positively changed.

Raising a child with autism is an enormous commitment and there are extraordinary people in Texas and the United States. If you are a Texas resident and are not approved as a foster or adoptive family, please fill out our Adoption and Foster Care Interest form in the Get Started section.

If you have questions or want to inquire about a specific child or sibling group, contact the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE) or call 1-800-233-3405.

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