What is Autism?

General Information About Autism Spectrum Disorder

Information for Grandparents

General Information

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a life-long neurological disorder that affects the way a person communicates and relates to the people and world around them. ASD can affect behaviour, social interactions, and one’s ability to communicate. ASD is a spectrum disorder, which means that while all people with ASD will experience certain difficulties, the degree to which each person on the spectrum experiences these challenges will be different.  

The following is an excerpt from our flyer titled "Your Child May Have Autism...".  If you observe items on the following list, it may mean that your child is developing differently.  Parents should discuss this with their family doctor or pediatrician and ask about a referral for further assessment.

• Doesn’t point to show others things he or she is interested in
• Inconsistent or reduced use of eye contact with people outside the family
• Rarely smiles when looking at others or does not exchange back and forth warm, joyful
• Does not spontaneously use gestures such as waving, reaching or pointing with others
• Does not respond to gestures and facial expressions used by others
• More interested in looking at objects than at people’s faces
• May be content to spend extended periods of time alone
• Doesn’t make attempts to get parent’s attention; doesn’t follow/look when someone
is pointing at something; doesn’t bring a toy or other item to parent to show them
• Inconsistent in responding when his or her name is called
• Seems to be in his or her “own world”
• Doesn’t respond to parent’s attempts to play, even if relaxed
• Avoids or ignores other children when they approach or interact
• No words by 16 months or no two-word phrases by 24 months
• Any loss of previously acquired language or social skills
• Odd or repetitive ways of moving or holding fingers, hands or whole body (rocking,
pacing). Walks on toes.
• Displays a strong reaction to certain textures, sounds or lights (e.g., may reject clothing or want to be completely covered, put hands over ears, stare at lights)
• May appear indifferent to pain or temperature
• Lacks interest in toys, or plays with them in an unusual way (e.g., lining up, spinning,
smelling, opening/closing parts rather than using the toy as a whole)
• May engage in prolonged visual inspection of objects (e.g., may stare along edges, dangle
string or move items closely in front of his/her eyes)
• Insists on routines (has to perform activities in a special way or certain sequence; requires
a particular route or food and is difficult to calm if even small changes occur)
• Preoccupation with unusual interests, such as light switches, doors, fans, wheels – difficult
to distract from these activities
• Unusual fears but may not seek comfort from adults

*Includes DSM 5 changes.

tear off pad picClick here to view the complete flyer

This flyer is a useful tool for medical professionals to provide to newly diagnosed families or those with concerns.

This tear off pad can be ordered upon request at mail@autismontario.com and are provided complimentary of the Potential Programme. 


Click here to view the Autism Ontario ASD Fact Sheet

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm

 Also, visit the Autism Ontario Info About Autism page for more information about ASD.

Changes to the Diagnostic Terminology

The terminology, the words or terms we use to diagnose ASD are constantly changing. As assessment tools are developed, the set of described behaviours are defined in new ways. There have been many changes made to the diagnostic terminology over time, and while it is important to know the history, what is most important, is meeting the needs of people on the spectrum, and their families.

dsm pic

For more information about changes to the DSM 5 or the diagnostic criteria, please contact your local Chapter or your local Family Support Coordinator.

 Information for Grandparents

A Grandparent's Guide to Autism by Autism Speaks

12 Ways to Make A Difference for Your Grandchild with Autism by Jennifer Krumins



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