What is Autism?


Infinity Symbol in colors of the rainbow

Autism is a developmental disability with conditions ranging from difficulties with social interactions, communication and regulating emotions and behaviors. The severity of symptoms vary from mild impairment to significant cognitive, behavioral, and physical impairment. Diagnosing autism early is key in ensuring that individuals receive prompt intervention and access to resources and services available.

For more information and resources, visit the Office of Autism Services.


Eligibility Criteria

A child displays autism when

(1) Through evaluation that includes a review of medical records, observation of the child’s behavior across multiple environments, and an in-depth social history, the following behaviors are documented:

Disturbances of speech, language-cognitive, and nonverbal communication:
  • The child displays abnormalities that extend beyond speech to many aspects of the communication process.
  • Communicative language may be absent or, if present, language may lack communicative intent.
  • Characteristics may involve both deviance and delay.
  • There is a deficit in the capacity to use language for social communication, both receptively and expressively.
Disturbance of the capacity to relate appropriate to people, events, or objects:
  • The child displays abnormalities in relating to people, objects, and events.
  • There is a deficit in the capacity to form relationships with people.
  • The capacity to use objects in an age appropriate or functional manner may be absent, arrested, or delayed.
  • The child may seek consistency in environmental events to the point of exhibiting rigidity in routines.

(2) The condition adversely affects the child’s educational performance.
(3) The autism is not a result of an emotional disability as defined in this document.

Other Behaviors Which the Child May Exhibit Include:

Disturbance of developmental rates and sequences:
  • The child may also exhibit delays, arrests, or regressions in physical, social, or learning skills.
  • Areas of precocious skill development may also be present, while other skills may develop at normal or extremely depressed rates.
  • The order of skill acquisition frequently does not follow normal developmental patterns.
Disturbances of responses to sensory stimuli:
  • The child’s behavior may also range from being hyperactive to being unresponsive to people and objects in their environment and can alternate between these two (2) states over periods ranging from hours to months.
  • Disturbances may be apparent in auditory, visual, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, and kinesthetic responses.
  • The child may respond to stimulation inappropriately and in repetitive or non-meaningful ways.
Missouri State Plan for Special Education  
Standards and Indicators

Missouri Office of Special Education: Compliance Standards and Indicators

Incident Rates

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Special Education State Profile

Signs and Symptoms

Missouri Department of Mental Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Project Access - Instructional and Intervention Strategies
National Resources
State Resources
Parent Resources