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What is Autism?

by Claudia Martinez


Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a mental developmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communi­cate and interact with other people, according to the Mayo Clinic. The term “spectrum” in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and the severity that can be found in each case. The uniqueness of each person with autism makes the experience of living with autism different for each family. However, there are some consistent themes that most families should be aware of in order to be able to provide the best support to the individual and to family members.


There are more than 200,000 cases of autism in the United States per year. That is 1 in every 68 births in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual report in 2016. Autism is 4.5 times more prevalent in boys than girls. Currently, ASD does not have a single known cause. But increased awareness, early diagnosis, and early intervention can lead to significantly improved results in children.


What are some symptoms of Autism?

• Fails to respond to his or her name or appears to not hear you at times

• Resists cuddling or holding and seems to prefer playing alone

• Has poor eye contact and lacks facial expressions

• Performs repetitive movements such as rocking, spinning, or head-banging

• Moves constantly

• Does not engage in imitative or make-believe play


Signs of autism usually tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, autism can be diagnosed as early as 18 months in a child. In other cases, children are sometimes not diagnosed with ASD until after the age of 4. Symptoms and necessary treatment for a child can change as children grow and go through different phases of life. The quality of life for someone with ASD depends not only on the foundation provided during childhood, but also from ongoing support that is specific to individual needs. The demands of living with a person with autism are great and families frequently experience high levels of stress. Recognizing and preparing for the challenges in store will make a big difference to everyone involved.


While there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, early and intensive treatment can make a big difference in the devel­opment of a child’s life. With proper services and information, children with autism will grow and flourish at a different developmental rate than typically developing children. Early intervention can help to minimize disruptive or self-harming behaviors, and behavior therapy can teach self-help skills for greater independence in a child’s life.


If you suspect your child of having ASD, it is important to discuss any concerns with your family doctor. Mariposa Autism Service Center (MASC) provides therapy to children with autism in Las Cruces. MASC utilizes Applied Behavior Analytic techniques to teach new skills to children with autism. For more information or if you have any questions about our program, please call our office at 575-652-3155 or email us at


Newsletter | Fall 2017

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