The number of children with diagnoses of Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome has exploded over the past several years. Between 150—250 children per 1,000 are estimated to fall somewhere within the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), according to the National Institutes of Health.

In the 1980’s Autism was a diagnosis that was virtually unheard of outside of the schools and agencies who served individuals with developmental disabilities. Now it is regularly discussed on the news, and mainstream magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and People, have had multiple cover stories devoted to the topic. But what is it and where does it come from?

The causes of autism are not currently known. We do know it is neurobiological and does not occur as a result of poisoning from the chemicals in childhood immunizations. Beyond that, scientists are struggling to develop a method for identifying the causes of autism in order to affect a cure.

The diagnostic criteria for Autism is below, by following the hyperlink to the CDC web site, one can obtain the criterion for Asperger’s Syndrome as well. Click the Autism Speaks logo to see video of children with ASD.

Regardless of the cause of autism, the only interventions with repeated evidence of success are those that use Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Intensive early intervention using ABA has been shown to reduce or eliminate the signs and symptoms of autism in up to 50% of children. These children typically enter into school and no one knows they once had the diagnosis.

For the other 50%, and for those children who did not have access to early intervention, ABA can still provide the best opportunity for lasting changes that will increase the child’s ability to function in mainstream society.

Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General states, “Thirty years of research demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior” - Department of Health and Human Services.*

For more information about ABA services for your individual go to the In-home services page.

* Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institute of Mental Health, 1999.
DSM 5 Diagnostic Criteria for 299.00 (F84.00) Autism Spectrum Disorder

A. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive)

   1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-           and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of intrests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social                       interactions.

    2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated              verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnotmalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and            use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and non-verbal communication.

    3. Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting                behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play, or in making friends; to absence of                  interest in peers.

B.  Restricted, repetetive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive.) 

    1.  Stereotypted or repetative motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypies, lining up toys or             flipping objects, echolalia, idiosynchratic phrases.)

     2.  Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior (e.g.,                    extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same            route or eat same food every day.)

     3.  Highly restrictited, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g., strong attachment to or preoccupation                with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests.)

     4.  Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent                        indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of                      objects, visual fascination with lights or movement.) 

Specific current severity: Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetative patterns of behavior.

C. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life.)

D. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

E. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay.  Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur, to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.

For more information: the Centers for Disease Control Web site
Autism Resources

There are many resources for parents who are seeking information about autism. Unfortunately, many people are only too happy to take advantage of parents desperate for a cure. For this reason, we suggest you start with this presentation. Dr. Gina Green is a world renowned expert on the treatment of Autism, how to determine what evidence-based research means, and how to tell the difference between evidence and quackery. Clicking on this slide will bring you to another site to view the presentation.








Karola Dillenburger and Mickey Keenan, along with Ken Kerr and Mary Henderson, live in Northern Ireland, where Applied Behavior Analysis is only available on a very limited basis due to the scarcity of Behavior Analysts. Together, they helped start the non-profit organization, Parent’ Education as Autism Therapists (PEAT). Parents are taught the basics of Applied Behavior Analysis in order to provide the much-needed therapy to their own children. In addition, Dr Keenan, a BCBA, began a Master’s program in ABA in the Psychology Department at the University of Ulster a few years ago. Dr. Dillonburger, also a BCBA, recently accepted the coordinator’s position in the new Master’s program in Autism Spectrum Disorder at Queen’s University of Belfast, in the Education Department, effectively doubling the ABA graduate programs in Northern Ireland. Clicking on their book cover will bring you to the Google book search sample page. The book’s foreword, also written by Dr. Gina Green, may be helpful in understanding why your path as your child’s advocate may contain many odd turns. The forward, by the authors, will give you additional information about how PEAT was formed, and why.








The Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies

a non-profit organization dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge in behavior analysis, has an incredible autism section on their website. Included topics are definitions of behavior analysis, how to select a competent behavior analyst, and several other resources. One of the best resources is streaming video of 3 clips done by Dr. John Jacobson for the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Originally done as a 20-minute presentation, it has been divided into three shorter segments, better viewed through streaming video.


Dr Jay Moore of Athabasca University has developed a Behaviorism Tutorial. It is a little “heavy”, but well done. Although the logo is for Athabasca University, this tutorial originates from the Cambridge Center web site.

The Association for Behavior Analysis International

is an organization dedicated to furthering the field of behavior analysis through their annual conference held each year on Memorial Day Weekend. In addition, they offer specialty conferences with a focus on autism, behavior analysis in education, and international concerns.

This site will bring you to a page with several research journals relating to individuals with developmental disabilities and autism, as well as performance management and other topics that are not behavior analytic, per se, but are fields in which behavior analysts contribute.


At the

Association for Science in Autism Treatment


 Check out theMedia Watch section.