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Autism Resources: Home

About Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability. People with ASD may communicate and interact in ways that are different from most other people. ASD includes what the American Psychiatric Association used to call autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. ASD is called a "spectrum" disorder because people with ASD can have a range of strengths and challenges, and need more or less support for those challenges. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some children and adults with ASD need a lot of assistance in their daily lives; others need less.






Screening & Diagnosis




Causes & Prevalence

Acronyms, Terms, and Definitions

Educational policy, childhood disability advocacy, and the legislation governing both have produced terms and acronyms that might require clarification if you are new to the system. To better understand the points and tips that follow, here is a list of brief explanations and definitions. 

  • Autism spectrum disorders. Neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, Asperger's syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder can cause issues in a child’s verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction, and sensory processing. Students on the autism spectrum may have difficulty communicating their needs, understanding classroom directions, and engaging in typical social interactions.
  • ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all places that are open to the general public. The purpose is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
  • FAPE. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973  guarantees a Free Appropriate Public Education to students from ages 3 to 21 with disabilities. The acronym can be broken down as such:
    • Free - All eligible students with disabilities are educated at public expense, with no cost to parents or guardians beyond standard incidental fees.
    • Appropriate - Education for any child with a disability will be tailored and planned to meet specific needs as determined and stated in their Individualized Education Plan.
    • Public - Any child with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disabilities, has the right to be educated under public supervision. (This can encompass either private or public school. Homeschooling is governed by different but comparable regulations; see below.)
    • Education - Every eligible school-age child with a disability must be provided an education that prepares them for future education, employment, and independent living.
  • IDEA. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a law that makes available a free, appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures them special education and related services. The law also helps government and service agencies provide for this education as well as early intervention services for infants and toddlers, and protects the rights of children with disabilities and their parents. 
  • IEP.  Every child who qualifies for special education must by law be provided an Individualized Education Program, collaboratively devised by parents or guardians, teachers, administrators, and others invested in the child’s education. An IEP first assesses achievement levels and the ways the student's disabilities affect academic performance, then specifies accommodations, modifications, and services necessary to address their individual needs. The IEP also sets measurable annual goals and recommends the services necessary to help the child meet them. Every faculty member, particularly classroom teachers, must follow this plan.
  • Least restrictive environment. A student with a disability is considered in their least restrictive environment when their learning is integrated with the general education population — granting access to curriculum or extracurricular activities open to non-disabled peers — as much as is appropriate to yield progress in their educational program. Generally, the less opportunity a student has to interact and learn with non-disabled peers, the more their placement is considered to be restricted.


CDC Features: Autism Research – Overview of CDC’s Study to Explore Early Development (SEED)

NIH Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) – The ACE program comprises 11 research centers and networks that focus to identify the causes of ASD and develop new and improved treatments.

Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network – CDC funded programs to determine the number of people with autism.

Centers for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology (CADDRE) – CDC established regional centers of excellence for autism and other developmental disabilities.

Study to Explore Early Development (SEED) – CDC-funded study to help identify risk factors that may put children at risk for developmental disabilities.

Autism Clinical Trials – National Institutes of Health website that catalogs results for autism clinical trials.

HRSA: Combating Autism Act – HRSA programs that address urgent issues affecting people with autism and their families.

Ideas for Raising Autism Awareness in School

Understanding autism starts at a young age, and there is no greater place than the classroom to start.  Understanding autism and how to interact with people with autism comes from being exposed to them, and being taught how to treat and talk to someone with autism. Children naturally want to be helpful.  Give them that opportunity by encouraging them to be a buddy to someone with autism.  It is up to teachers and parents to teach children about differences, acceptance, and understanding. Here are some activities published by American Autism Society that students can do: