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What is Autism?

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.

In March 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 68 births in the United States and almost 1 in 42 boys. Researchers estimate that the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism  is $2.4 million, and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism.

Autism is treatable and studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes.

Here are some signs to look for in the children in your life:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects

There is no one cause for autism and no known cures. Autism can affect any child, regardless of race, ethnicity, lifestyle, education or income level.  Early diagnosis and appropriate intervention are vital to successful treatment and set the foundation for future success.

The information above was obtained from the Autism Society of America. For more information on the Autism Society of America, please visit or call 1.800.3AUTISM.

Training Promo

The Center for Autism has an experienced team of clinicians that provide consultation & training services to people working with individuals with ASD in a variety of settings. From general information on autism, to a tailored training specific to your unique needs, the Center offers this service to individuals and organizations throughout the Philadelphia region. Click here for more information on our training services.

Early Diagnosis

Research indicates that better outcomes are possible when early diagnosis occurs. If given an early diagnosis, families can acquire the necessary intervention services for their child. At first glance, some persons with autism may appear to have mental retardation, a behavior disorder, problems with hearing or even odd and eccentric behavior. However, it is important to distinguish autism from other conditions, since an accurate diagnosis and early identification can provide the basis for building an appropriate and effective educational and treatment program.


To learn more about the early signs of autism from First Signs, click here.


At the Center for Autism we conduct a comprehensive autism evaluation. Through observation of the individual’s behaviors and the collection of developmental, medical and psychiatric histories from the family, our trained professionals are able to determine an individual’s diagnosis. To learn more about our evaluation services, click here. To speak to someone or to schedule an evaluation, please contact the Intake Department at 215-220-2121.


Treatment Options

Discovering that your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder can be an overwhelming experience. For some, the diagnosis may come as a complete surprise; others may have had suspicions and tried for months or years to get an accurate diagnosis. In either case, a diagnosis brings a multitude of questions about how to proceed.


Autism Speaks can provide you with a general overview of a variety of available treatment approaches. Click here to learn more. To read about the treatment programs offered at the Center for Autism, click here.

Resource List



A Terms

  • ABA: Applied Behavior Analysis
  • ABC: Autism Behavior Checklist - a diagnostic tool
  • ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act
  • ADD: Attention Deficit Disorder
  • ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • ADI: Autism Diagnostic Interview - a diagnostic tool developed in London by the Medical Research Council
  • ADOS: Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale
  • AIT: Auditory Integration Training
  • AS: Asperger's Syndrome
  • ASA: Autism Society of America
  • ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • ASL: American Sign Language

C Terms

  • CARS: Childhood Autism Rating Scale
  • CBCL: Achenbach Childhood Behavior Checklist - a diagnostic tool
  • CHAT: Checklist for Autism in Toddlers - a diagnostic tool

D Terms

  • DAN Doctor: a physician who uses the DAN protocol to diagnose autism and attended a DAN conference
  • DAN Protocol: an assessment protocol that examines the underlying disorders causing autism
  • DD: Developmental Disabilities
  • DVD: Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia

E Terms

  • EEG: Electroencephalogram
  • ELAP: Early Learning Accomplishment Profile - an evaluation tool

F Terms

  • FC: Facilitated Communication
  • FCT: Facilitated Communication Training

G Terms

  • GARS: Gilliam Autism Rating Scale

H Terms

  • HFA: High-functioning Autistic

I Terms

  • ICF: Intermediate Care Facility
  • IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Act
  • IEP: Individualized Education Plan
  • IFSP: Individualized Family Service Plan
  • IHP: Individualized Habilitation Program
  • IPP: Individual Program Plan

L Terms

  • LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • LRE: Least Restrictive Environment

M Terms

  • MSDD: Multi-System Developmental Disorder

N Terms

  • NT: Neurologically Typical or Neurotypical
  • NOS: Not Otherwise Specified

O Terms

  • OCD: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • ODD: Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • OT: Occupational Therapist

P Terms

  • PDD: Pervasive Developmental Disorder
  • PDD NOS: Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
  • PECS: Picture Exchange Communication System
  • PEP: Psycho-educational Profile
  • PEP-R: Psycho-educational Profile Revised
  • PRT: Pivotal Response Training
  • PT: Physical Therapy

S Terms

  • SAS: Specialized Autism Services
  • SI: Sensory Integration
  • SIB: Self-Injurious Behavior
  • SIT: Sensory Integration Therapy

T Terms

  • TEACCH: Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children


From Maggie, the parent of a child in the Pre-K Program...

My son attends the Center for Autism and he loves it! Everyone is so fun and friendly there.

Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), a nonprofit public health institute that creates and sustains healthier communities, acquired The Center for Autism on February 4, 2020.

The Center for Autism is an equal opportunity employer & service provider.
The organization is a licensed outpatient clinic under the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.  Sitemap.

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