April 17, 2024 // by Michele Ledesma, MD

April is Autism Acceptance Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Approximately 1 in 36 children in the U.S. have ASD. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Specialist, Dr. Michele Ledesma, shares valuable information about autism and how we can support and celebrate those affected. 

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder that affects how a person communicates, interacts with others, and experiences the world around them. It's important to remember that autism is a spectrum, meaning that it can affect individuals in different ways and to varying degrees. Individuals with autism may have difficulty in some areas of development and excel in others.

Diagnosing ASD

BCHP follows The American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation that all children be screened for ASD at their 18-month and 24-month well-child visits and at any other visits where there are concerns about development or behavior. 

Signs and symptoms

Recognizing the early signs and symptoms of autism is crucial for early intervention and support. Some common signs of autism may include:

  1. Difficulty with social interactions, such as making eye contact or understanding social cues.
  2. Repetitive behaviors or movements, such as hand-flapping or rocking back and forth.
  3. Challenges with communication include delayed speech development or difficulty understanding language.
  4. Sensory sensitivities, such as being sensitive to loud noises or certain textures.
  5. Fixated interests or intense focus on specific topics.

If autism is diagnosed, support modalities can include:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Medication
  • Specialized education assistance 

The importance of a care team

Children on the autism spectrum may also have other medical conditions known as comorbidities, which can include seizures, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal issues, and behavioral health challenges like anxiety, ADHD, irritability, and aggression. This emphasizes the importance of having a comprehensive care team where specialists collaborate to ensure whole-patient and family wellness.  

By recognizing neurodiversity and celebrating the unique strengths of individuals with autism, fostering empathy, and especially reminding children to be kind and inclusive of everyone at school, we can create a supportive and understanding community that will enable children with autism to lead happy, productive lives. 


If you have questions about your child’s development, be sure to contact your pediatrician for more information and evaluation.