All About Autism

What Is Autism?

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects brain development.

There is no one type of autism or one particular way it appears in children.

Children with autism may have difficulty with social skills, struggle to make eye contact, display repetitive behaviors, and have speech problems.

They may be non-verbal and never speak at all, or they may say some words and then stop speaking, or may speak once in a while.

“Spectrum” describes the range of challenges that each child with autism may face.

It’s a common misconception that children with autism are not affectionate, and prefer to be alone. The truth is many children with autism love to be around people and to be kissed, hugged, chased, and tickled. But just as with any other child, everyone has their own individual needs, desires, and boundaries to navigate.

A well-known saying in the autism community is “if you have met one child with autism- you have met one child.” Each child possesses their own unique differences, strengths, and challenges.

Here at AIM, we strive to create a space where every child feels confident and capable to express their own individuality.

Melody’s Story

Melody Smith (May 25, 2001 – December 3, 2022)

After a courageous battle with bone cancer, 

 Melody Dawn Smith, 21, died peacefully on December 3, 2022

This video was taken in 2018 when Melody spoke at AIM’s Gala about her teenage life as an autistic person. She was always witty, honest and confident; however, struggled with many unreachable expectations of our society.

AIM will continue to grow to support individuals like Melody to be a meaningful member of our community.

What To Do If You Think Your Child

May Have Autism

If you are a parent concerned that your child may have autism, you’re already doing the right thing by getting online and researching how to help your child.

Many parents of children with autism are told by family, friends, teachers, family doctors, or others that love them that they shouldn’t worry… that “your child is a just late bloomer! Einstein didn’t speak until he was 4!”

Learning that your child may face developmental challenges is scary and it’s tempting to put your head in the sand and hope it will all be okay.

A diagnosis of autism, however, will allow you to access the support your child needs sooner, and to learn how you and your family and friends can best support them.

There is no medical exam or blood test that can diagnose autism, but there are definite signs that can flag an autism spectrum disorder. By observing those signs and examining a child’s behavior and development, a psychologist can make a diagnosis of autism and put you on the right path to help your child as quickly as possible.

Signs of Autism In a Child

While children reach developmental milestones at different times, there are behaviors and lack of behaviors that can indicate autism spectrum disorder as early as 18 months of age.

Some developmental delays, such as difficulty making eye contact, can be detected even earlier. For example, if your child is not making eye contact or smiling at their loved ones by 6 months of age, this could be a sign of autism.

Possible Signs of Autism in Babies and Toddlers

from Autism Speaks Canada:

By 6 months:

By 6 months:

By 12 months:

By 16 months:

By 24 months:

What To Do If You Notice Signs of Autism In Your Child

Parents of children with autism often say that they knew in their gut there was something to be concerned about.

If you have this feeling, or your child is displaying possible signs of autism, the earlier you can get help for your child the better.

The first step to address your concerns is making an appointment with your family doctor for a developmental screening to see if there are delays with their basic skills.

Your family doctor, a developmental pediatrician (doctors who have special training in child development and children with special needs), or a child psychologist can diagnose your child with autism.

If your doctor does not provide a developmental screening, ask for a referral to one that does

From there, you’ll want to research the different types of government funding, support, and programs available to guide your child to their full potential and to support you as a parent in understanding the needs of your child. For families in Ontario, there are five diagnostic hubs across the province where your child can receive an autism assessment.

If you are located in the Greater Toronto Area and want to discuss your child’s diagnosis, challenges, and possibilities for support, contact us at AIM for a free consultation.