Understanding Autism Handout - Comprehensive Guide

Sep 13, 2020


Thank you for visiting Jenny Demeaux, RNC ND, where we strive to provide valuable resources and information to empower individuals and families. In this handout, we aim to deliver a comprehensive understanding of autism, shedding light on its characteristics, causes, diagnosis, and available interventions.

What is Autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects individuals differently. It is characterized by challenges in social interaction, communication difficulties, and repetitive behaviors or restrictive interests. ASD can range from mild to severe, impacting individuals throughout their lives.

Understanding the Characteristics of Autism

Autism presents various core characteristics that shape an individual's experience. These characteristics include:

  • Social Interaction Challenges: People with autism may struggle with initiating and maintaining social interactions, understanding non-verbal cues, and exhibiting appropriate social behaviors.
  • Communication Difficulties: Language delays or impairments are common in individuals with autism. Some may have difficulty understanding and using spoken language, while others may rely on alternative forms of communication such as sign language or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems.
  • Repetitive Behaviors and Restricted Interests: Many individuals with autism engage in repetitive actions, routines, or movements. They may also display intense interests in specific topics, objects, or activities, often referred to as "special interests."

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact causes of autism are still being researched, but studies suggest a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. While the specific causes remain unknown in most cases, researchers have identified certain risk factors that may contribute to the development of autism, including:

  1. Genetic Factors: Certain genetic mutations or inherited conditions increase the likelihood of autism.
  2. Environmental Factors: Prenatal exposure to environmental toxins, maternal infections during pregnancy, and complications during birth are considered potential environmental risk factors.
  3. Advanced Parental Age: Advanced parental age, particularly in fathers, has been associated with an increased risk of autism.
  4. Other Factors: Premature birth, low birth weight, and certain medical conditions like fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis may also contribute to the development of autism.

Diagnosis and Early Intervention

Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial for individuals with autism. Diagnosis typically involves comprehensive assessments conducted by multidisciplinary teams, including psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and occupational therapists. Early intervention programs aim to support the development of essential skills, promote communication, and improve social interactions.

Treatment and Therapies

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to autism treatment. Therapies and interventions are tailored to the needs of each individual. Some common treatments and strategies include:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): ABA therapy focuses on promoting desired behaviors and reducing challenging behaviors through positive reinforcement and systematic teaching methods.
  • Speech-Language Therapy: This type of therapy helps individuals improve their communicative abilities, including speech production, receptive language skills, and pragmatic language.
  • Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapists work on developing fine motor skills, sensory integration, and task-oriented behaviors to improve an individual's participation in daily activities.
  • Social Skills Training: Social skills training programs aim to teach individuals with autism appropriate social behaviors, understanding social cues, and making meaningful connections with others.

Supporting Individuals with Autism

It is essential to approach individuals with autism with empathy, understanding, and support. Consider the following tips:

  • Create a Structured Environment: Providing a structured and predictable environment can help individuals with autism feel more comfortable and reduce anxiety.
  • Use Visual Supports: Visual aids, such as visual schedules, cue cards, and social stories, can assist individuals with understanding and following instructions or routines.
  • Practice Patience and Flexibility: Individuals with autism may require more time to process information or express themselves. Being patient and flexible in communication and expectations can foster positive interactions.
  • Encourage Special Interests: Embrace and incorporate an individual's special interests into activities and learning experiences, as they can serve as powerful motivators.


This handout provides a comprehensive understanding of autism, encompassing its characteristics, causes, diagnosis, and available interventions. We hope that this resource equips parents, caregivers, and professionals with valuable information to better support individuals with autism. At Jenny Demeaux, RNC ND, we are committed to empowering individuals and families through knowledge and compassionate care.

Corey Bowman
Informative and helpful guide! 👏
Nov 11, 2023
Scott Phillips
This guide is informative and helpful in understanding autism. 👍
Oct 9, 2023