Autism

How does IDEA define Autism?

Here is the specific definition of Autism from section 300.7(c) of the IDEA regulations.

(1) (i) Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child's educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance, as defined in paragraph (b)(4) of this section. 

(ii) A child who manifests the characteristics of "autism" after age 3 could be diagnosed as having "autism" if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.

Autism is a neurological disorder that affects a child's ability to communicate, understand language, play, and relate to others. It is also sometimes called Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. Autism and PDD occur in approximately 5 to 15 per 10,000 births. These disorders are four times more common in boys than girls. The causes of autism and PDD are unknown. Currently, researchers are investigating areas such as neurological damage and biochemical imbalance in the brain. These disorders are not caused by psychological factors.

Children with vary widely in abilities, intelligence, and behaviors. Some do not speak; others have limited language that often includes repeated phrases or conversations. People with more advanced language skills tend to use a small range of topics and have difficulty with abstract concepts. Repetitive play skills, a limited range of interests, and impaired social skills are generally evident as well. Unusual responses to sensory information such as loud noises or bright lights are common.

Common Assistive Technology Devices used by Children with Autism Disabilities

Children with autism often have difficulty with communication. They may also have trouble with a variety of other functional life skills. Below is a list of the types of communication systems which may be useful to children with Autism.

  • Communication board/book with pictures, objects, letters or words
  • Eye gaze (eye pointing) board or frame
  • Simple voice device, which speaks a few messages
  • Voice output device with levels, which increase the number of messages
  • Voice output device with picture (icon) sequencing
  • Voice output device with selections, which change in the display to allow for a large number of vocabulary items
  • Device with speech synthesis for typing messages

Other Autism Disability Websites

Autism Society of America

Autism National Committee

Indiana Resource Center for Autism