Frequently Asked Questions about Autism

What are Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)?

ASD refers to a wide spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect communication, behavior, and social interaction.

Children with ASD have delayed or absent communication skills and may demonstrate repetitive or idiosyncratic use of language.  They often have underdeveloped play skills and may engage in repetitive behaviors or adhere to rigid routines.

For more information about the warning signs for autism, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at or the First Signs website at

How common is autism?

According to a 2014 report commissioned by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in 68 American children has been diagnosed with autism or a closely related neurodevelopmental disorder—a dramatic increase over the past decade.

What causes autism? Can it be cured?

The causes of this complex disorder remain uncertain. Instructional methods such as Applied Behavior Analysis have proven effective in helping individuals with autism learn to overcome many of the challenges that autism presents. These interventions have proven particularly effective when started during the first several years of a child’s life. For more information about recent research into the causes of and treatments for autism, visit the Autism Speaks website at

Why doesn’t The Birchtree Center refer to its students as “autistic”?

Our students are children or youth who happen to have autism. We believe that our choice of words, our choice of “descriptors,” is not merely a subtle grammatical-lexical difference. What we call ourselves and how we refer to our children is of primary importance.

“Oh, he’s autistic!” is quite different than “Oh, that’s Tommy; he has autism.”

Please join us in referring to our students as having autism, as being challenged with autism, and never as being totally defined by it. We prefer to think of our students as learners, as students, as children who are challenged with autism.

For answers to frequently asked questions about The Birchtree Center’s programs and our educational approach, click here.  For tips for families living with autism, click here.

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