Child Blowing Bubbles

Post Updated April, 2021

Nearly one in 54 children have been identified as autistic through diagnoses for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Autism is a complex condition that can impair social interaction, language, communication, and other day-to-day behaviors. Signs of the condition typically emerge in early childhood, though autism’s effects may span the entirety of a person’s life.

Most perplexing of all, there is no single type of autism, because it occurs across a broad spectrum. The condition can be found across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, though the condition is more frequently diagnosed in boys than girls.

Early diagnosis and intervention for young children, as well as diagnostic and support services for adults, is vital. As autistic children transition to adulthood, the need for support and services do not diminish — required support may include behavioral, educational, vocational, medical, and family services.

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Early Signs of Autism

First or early significant signs to look for in an autism assessment:

  • No big smiles by six months
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds or smiles by nine months
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No two-word meaningful phrases by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills by any age

Signs of Autism in Older Children and Adults

Common signs of autism that occur later in life:

  • Functional language impairment
  • Difficulty taking the perspective of others
  • Preoccupation with facts, details, and collections
  • Lack of meaningful friendships and relationships
  • Viewed as “odd” or “eccentric” by peers
  • Appears to lack empathy


The Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders (CADD) at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital has a long history of serving autistic individuals across the life span and provides specialized programs including:

  • Child and adult clinics
  • Child and adult inpatient unit
  • Child wraparound
  • Preschool
  • Summer therapeutic programs
  • Vocational training and supported employment

The Center also includes western Pennsylvania’s regional ASERT (Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training) Collaborative, the Autism Treatment Network, clinical research, and training.

For more information, call the UPMC Western Behavioral Health Child Services central call line at 412-235-5444.

About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. UPMC Western Psychiatric is the hub of UPMC Western Behavioral Health, a network of nearly 60 community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors throughout western Pennsylvania.