April is autism awareness month. Autism is really just one of many disorders on the autism spectrum. In total there are five disorders on the spectrum as follows: autism, Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS), Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder.
Each disorder is slightly different, but they all have similar characteristics. To be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder the child must be affected in three areas; social skills, verbal and/or non-verbal communication, and repetitive behaviors and interests. (Many children with ASD also have sensory processing disorders, but they are considered co-morbid and not used to diagnose autism.)
Signs of autism are usually first noticed by the parents (especially if there are multiple children in the home). Pediatricians also now have parents fill out questionnaires at well child visits to help ensure that babies, toddlers, and young children are developing and learning at an average rate. Sometimes the questions asked will help parents talk to the doctor about their child's behavior and ask questions that they may not have normally asked.
Sometimes the questionnaire brings to mind behaviors that parents wouldn't normally think about as being unusual. It allows parents and doctors to discuss things that might otherwise go unmentioned. The sooner an autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed, the earlier supports and therapy can begin.