Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. It is a neurological disorder that compromises the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills and cognitive ability. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. These deficits present significant challenges to families affected by autism and to the professional community responsible for providing services to them.

Current estimates suggest that 1 in 88 individuals are affected by autism in the United States. Autism is usually diagnosed during the first three years of life and is four to five times more prevalent in boys than in girls. It knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries. Contrary to popular understanding, many children and adults with autism may make eye contact, show affection, smile and laugh, and demonstrate a variety of other emotions, although in varying degrees. Like other children, they respond to their environment in both positive and negative ways.

Autism is a spectrum disorder ranging from severe autism through High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. The symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. Although autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors, children and adults can exhibit any combination of the behaviors in any degree of severity. Two children, both with the same diagnosis, can act very differently from one another and have varying skills.

High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s Syndrome

Individuals who are less severely impacted by autism may be diagnosed with High-functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Individuals with HFA or Asperger’s syndrome usually have average or above-average intelligence and do not have the delayed language development that is typically found in individuals who are more severely affected by autism. However, they may show other behaviors and signs similar to what's seen with other types of autism. These include:

• A delay in motor skills
• A lack of skill in interacting with others
• Little understanding of the abstract uses of language, such as humor or give-and-take in a conversation
• Obsessive interest in specific items or information
• Strong reactions to textures, smells, sounds, sights, or other stimuli that others might not even notice, such as a flickering lights

Individuals with HFA or Asperger's syndrome often have difficulty making friends and interacting with others which can lead to social isolation, anxiety and depression.

Related Disorders

CCCD serves students who either have a diagnosis of Autism, HFA or Asperger’s as well as those who show signs and symptoms but may not have a formal diagnosis. Additionally we serve students with a variety of related disorders.