Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.  ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a condition that affects individuals different and to varying degrees.

While it is easy to generalize about characteristics, no two individuals with ASD are alike.  ASD 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.

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

Facts About ASD:

  • ASD is the fastest growing developmental disability with an average 17% growth rate per year.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), prevalence in the United States is estimated at 1 in 54 births. (1 in 34 boys and 1 in 145 girls).
  • Prevalence in Maryland is estimated at 1 in 52 births (1 in 33 boys and 1 in 128 girls)
  • Howard County has the highest incidence of ASD per capita in Maryland. The state average is about 11% of the special education population.  In Howard County, over 16% of its special education population are children with autism. (Maryland State Department of Education, 2018)
  • There is no known cause; however, current research suggest it may be a combination of genetics and environment.

Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that children diagnosed by the age of three are more likely to work and live on their own as independent adults.

Where to Begin

Where to begin if you think your child has ASD

ASD 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 ASD 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 ASD.  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, 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 (HCPSS), 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:

*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 Howard County Autism Society.  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@howard-autism.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.

Howard County Autism Society

Please take advantage of all HCAS 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 ASD

  • Center for Assessment and Treatment – (240) 424-0184
  • Dietzel Butler & Associates LLC – (202) 213-7589
  • Eve Band, Ph.D – (410) 902-0434
  • Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Adult Autism and Developmental Disorders Center (410) 550-0104
  • Jorge C. Srabstein, M.D. – (301) 916-5300
  • MindWell Psychology – (301) 581-1120
  • Sue Antell, Ph.D. ABPP ABPN – (410) 580-1228
  • William Stixrud – (301) 565-2217

Links to additional resources: