Autism is a complex, lifelong, developmental condition that typically appears during early childhood. It can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation.  Autism is often referred to as a “spectrum condition” that affects people differently and to varying degrees.  Early diagnosis helps a person receive resources that can support choices and expand opportunities.

While there is currently no known single cause of Autism, early diagnosis helps a person receive resources that can help support the choices and opportunities needed to life fully.

Autism Signs & Characteristics

  • Repetitive behaviors, movements, or phrases
  • Lack of response to normal stimuli (i.e. name, visual cues)
  • Atypical verbal communication or non-speaking
  • Difficulty understanding or expressing feelings
  • Avoiding contact

Facts & Statistics

  • 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with Autism in the United States.  Since 2000, the Autism prevalence rate has been consistently increasing from one in 150 to now one in 36.  (See below for Statement on latest CDC rates of diagnosis)
  • 1 in 44 children in Maryland are diagnosed with Autism
  • Over 7 million individuals in the United States are on the Autism spectrum.  It is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S.
  • Boys are 4X more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Autism
  • The diagnosis rate for Autism is rising by 10-17% each year
  • Over the next decade, an estimated 700,000 to 1.1 million+ Autistic teens will enter adulthood and age out of school-based services
  • Vaccines do not cause Autism
  • The cost of caring for Autistic Americans is estimated to rise to $460+ billion by 2025 in the absence of more effective interventions and supports. An estimated $175 to $196 billion of these costs are for adult services
  • 31% of children with Autism have an intellectual disability, 25% are in the borderline range, and 44% have average to above-average IQ scores
  • Children who receive an Autism diagnosis by age 4 are 50X more likely to receive services

Where to begin if you think your child has Autism

Autism is diagnosed by behavioral characteristics and symptoms.  Here are some signs to look for:

  • Lack of or delay in spoken language
  • Repetitive use of language or motor mannerisms
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Lack of interest in peer relationships
  • Lack of spontaneous play
  • Persistent fixation on parts of objects.

Any or all of these signs themselves do not constitute an Autism diagnosis, and there is no medical test that can offer a diagnosis either.  Only a trained physician or psychologist can make a diagnosis through Autism-specific behavior evaluations.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a useful resource of developmental milestones to help you understand what some of the target skills children should be developing at each age. Click here to explore the developmental milestone that is typically based on a child’s age.

Early diagnosis of Autism leads to early intervention.  Children diagnosed by age three are more likely to work and live on their own as independent adults.

Where to go for diagnosis:

Your pediatrician is a first stop when you suspect your child has Autism.  He or she can provide guidance and rule out any other medical causes. See the links below for other resources on where to begin to get an assessment and diagnosis.

  • Infants and Toddlers (Ages Birth to 2) –  A free service offered through the Howard County Public School System and other Maryland jurisdictions, the program serves children who have a developmental delay or at risk for developmental delay.  Visit the link or call 410-313-7017 to schedule an appointment.
  • Child Find (Ages 3 to 21) – A free service offered through the Howard County Public School System and other Maryland jurisdictions, this interdisciplinary team provides identification services to children who may have a disability including developmental delay.  Visit the link or call 410-313-7017 to schedule an appointment.

Local Independent Diagnosis for children and youth:

*Please note that this list is a compilation of local organizations, resources and services and does not represent an endorsement of any of these entities by the Autism Society of Maryland.  If you have suggestions of additional groups to add or corrections to the content here, please contact our office at 410-290-3466 or info@autismsocietymd.org.

Your Child Has Been Diagnosed with Autism.  Now What?

As you learn more about your child’s diagnosis, here are a few resources to help you navigate the system. We know it can be overwhelming at first, but remember we are here to help.

 “To Do” List for Newly Diagnosed Families  (UPDATED LIST ATTACHED)
A simple checklist of ways you can connect to resources, services and funding to support your child.

Howard County Public School System Family Support and Resource Center
The Family Support and Resource Center is designed to help families of children with special needs.  Services include workshops, IEP (Individualized Education Program), IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan), newsletters, a lending library, facilitation of parent support groups and service referrals.  Email Ann Scholz at ann_scholz@hcpss.org  or call 410-313-7161.

Maryland Autism Waiver
Register your child today!  The Maryland Autism Waiver enables eligible children ages 1 to 21 with ASD to receive specific in their homes and communities. It is administered by the Maryland State Department of Education.  Services provided under the waiver include Adult Life Planning, Environmental Accessibility Adaptations, Family Consultation, Intensive, Individual Support Services, Residential Habilitation, Respite Care, Therapeutic Integration (Regular/Intensive), and Service Coordination through the school system.  There is currently a waiting list, but registering while your child is young will increase the opportunity to receive waiver services in the future.  For more information, click the link or call MSDE at 410-767-1446 or the Maryland Department of Health at 410-767-5220.

Links to additional resources:

Autism Society of Maryland

Statement on Latest Rates of Prevalence Announced by CDC (April 2023)

In late March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released two new reports from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) network detailing prevalence rates, characteristics, and screening and diagnostic information.  The reports showed a continued increase in the prevalence rate with 1 in 36 children receiving an Autism diagnosis nationally and 1 in 43 here in Maryland. These estimates are based on 8-year-old children living in 11 community sites, one of them in Maryland.

This increasing prevalence estimates continue to underscore the need for equitable supports and services in the Autism community.  The increase to 1 in 36 eight-year-olds being diagnosed (up from 1 in 44) can be attributed to a variety of factors, including an increased rate of diagnosis itself. In short, this means that, while diagnostic screening and identification are improving in some ways, the prevalence rate is also increasing.  ​​​​​​​

Click on the links below for a statement from the Autism Society of America, our national organization. We have also included links to the complete ADDM reports – national and Maryland – as well as links to the CDC’s pages on Prevalence and Early Identification.

As we receive these newest rates of diagnosis and prepare for Autism Acceptance Month in just one week, the Autism Society of Maryland recommits itself to supporting and connecting all of our community members.

Statement from the Autism Society of America

Maryland Community Report (SY2020) – ADDM

AADM (SY2020) Community Report

Prevelance – CDC 

Early Identification – CDC

Please take advantage of all AUSOM has to offer you and your family. Services include:

  • Providing support to people with autism and their families
  • Support group meetings and social groups
  • Education and family wellness workshops
  • Parent training
  • Advocacy and Partnerships with HCPSS
  • IEP assistance
  • Special Education News Center
  • Community outreach

Diagnosis and support for ADULTS who suspect them may have Autism

*Please note that this list is a compilation of local organizations, resources and services and does not represent an endorsement of any of these entities by the Autism Society of Maryland.  If you have suggestions of additional groups to add or corrections to the content here, please contact our office at 410-290-3466 or info@autismsocietymd.org.