Behavioral Health

The month of April is designated as Autism Awareness Month. Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

About autism spectrum disorder

There is often nothing about how people with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave and learn in ways that are different from most other people. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives;others need less.

A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder:

  • autistic disorder
  • pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
  • Asperger syndrome

People with autism learn in a way that is different than most other people, and the ability to problem-solve ranges from severely challenged to being gifted. Students with autism are often bullied and isolated because of their communication struggles. It is important for parents to teach their children to be kind, inclusive of others and to focus on the similarities they have with others instead of the differences to have a better connection to those who are autistic.

Signs and symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with ASD often have problems with social, emotional and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention or reacting to things.

Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person's life. Children or adults with ASD might:

  • not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)
  • not look at objects when another person points at them
  • have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
  • avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • have trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to
  • appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play or relate to them
  • repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
  • have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • not play "pretend" games (for example, not pretend to "feed" a doll)
  • repeat actions over and over again
  • have trouble adapting when a routine changes
  • have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel or sound
  • lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)


There is currently no cure for ASD. The treatment for autism includes behavioral, family and educational therapy which supports development and learning and reduces symptoms of the disorder.

Getting help

Riverside Behavioral Health Center uses behavioral, family and educational therapies in the treatment of the children and adolescents they serve, on both a residential and an acute level. If you know of a person struggling with a mental disorder, Riverside can help. The Admissions team at Riverside Behavioral Health Center can connect you with appropriate resources: 757-827-1001.

Resources for ASD information