Understanding Autism

Autism is a complex neurological condition that impacts how an individual interacts with the world around them.  Today, the Center for Disease Control reports that 1 in 59 children is affected by autism. Autism is identified through observation of characteristics and behavior.  Individuals with autism have noticeable differences in their ability to engage in social interactions and to communicate effectively with those around them.  They are also likely to engage in patterned or repetitive behavior.  A combination of enough characteristics and behaviors could result in a diagnosis of autism. 

Distinctly individual communication differences range from an inability to develop speech, to meaningful speech with difficulty participating in functional, reciprocal conversations.  The inability to communicate effectively can cause frustration which sometimes leads to a child displaying challenging behaviors to get their needs met.


Distinctly individual socialization differences range from seeking distance from others or remaining non-responsive to the social initiations of other people, to an inability to use or understand appropriate eye contact, body postures, or facial expressions.  The difficulty socializing appropriately can have an impact on the establishment of friendships and integration into peer groups.

Individuals with autism engage in a variety of patterned or repetitive behaviors, including motor mannerisms, such as hand flapping and toe walking, as well as persistent interactions with objects, such as turning appliances on and off, or spinning wheels on toy cars. Individuals with autism often over-select on an item or topic which results in repetitive play, which lacks imagination, or perseverate about a certain subject. 

In addition to the impairments of communication and socialization, combined with repetitive and restrictive patterns of behavior, some children have additional differences in the following areas: cognitive impairment, motor skills, play skills, and sensory processing. 

Autism is considered a “spectrum disorder” and as such, no two children with autism are the same.  However, through a simple screening and a comprehensive evaluation, we can determine if your child is exhibiting characteristics of autism.  Click here for information on our Evaluation and Diagnostic Services. 

If you think your child may have autism.

Autism can have a significant impact on the lives of children and their families.  But with comprehensive treatment, children with autism can make significant and life-changing gains. Treatment based upon the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis is endorsed by the American Psychological Association, the US Surgeon General, and the National Institute of Mental Health.


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The Friendship Tree

1210 Fourier Drive

Madison, WI 53717



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