Can you PLEASE explain?

Mandy - posted on 03/17/2010 ( 9 moms have responded )




I'm sorry, but I just dont understand what Autism is. A few people think my toddler has autism, but they aren't telling me what it is. I'm tired of looking it up, and not finding the answers. PLEASE tell me what it is, and some of the signs.


[deleted account]

I'll give you the pizza analogy.

1. The Crust: Lack of Social Interaction (poor eye contact, not sharing interests with you, no pointing/ gesturing)

2. The Sauce: Impaired Communication (possibly no speech, poor conversation skills, repetitive language, echolalia, no make-believe play)

3. The Cheese: Stereotypical Activities & Interests (extreme routine, strong interest in certain things, stimming-- like flapping, atypical play-- like spinning wheels, lining toys up, stacking)

If you have all of those things: crust, sauce, cheese, you made an Autism pizza. It might have different toppings, but you can look at it and know it's still a pizza. If your pizza doesn't have sauce, that's Asperger's. If your pizza is missing more than that but still kind of looks like a pizza, that's PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified).

Ilene - posted on 03/21/2010




Autism is VERY frustrating because no one understands what it is and why some children are affected and others are not. I am the parent of 3 year old autistic twins (girl/boy) and they are COMPLETELY different in almost every way -- yet they both have a diagnosis of "severe autism".

The best explanation I've ever seen was one that was intended to explain autism to children (approximately age 9-10). If you consider a neurotypical child's brain to be wired like a "toaster", an autistic child's brain is wired like a "hairdryer". There's nothing WRONG with a hairdryer......but it's VERY different and doesn't do things in the same way as a "toaster". But there are other things that a "hairdryer" is much better at doing. (source=

Autistic children tend to isolate themselves and are totally inwardly focused. They will "stim" on a toy (my son will push buttons over and over again to get the exact same result). They often have sensory issues or can't handle new situation (more so than their neurotypical peers). They experience tantrums that are far more than what you see in their counterparts. They like to walk on their toes. Elopement is an issue. They show no interest in talking or learning to communicate. They may read much earlier than their neurotypical peers.

These are just SOME of the things that can be autism. As you can see, it's really an unknown. But as a parent of autistic children, I can tell you that these two kids have issues that their older brother never experienced.

If you suspect your child is autistic, look into it to the best of your ability. Bring him/her to someone who can give you a Yes or a No. Early intervention prior to Age 5 is the best thing we as parents can do for our autistic children -- this is when they make the most progress.

I'm not trying to scare you, and if I am, I am TERRIBLY sorry. It's a frightening thing to be told that your child may be on the spectrum and I was in denial about my daughter for the first few months we were trying to help her. But now I'm so grateful to the people we have been working with over the last year and one would NEVER recognize her. My son hasn't made that same level of progress, and he does a very different kind of program because he is affected much differently, but again, he is barely the same child he was this time last year.

Good luck to you!

All the best,



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[deleted account]

I don't see why not! After all, it wasn't my idea. I have no idea where the doctor got it, but it does simplify things a bit. :)

[deleted account]

Melissa I love the pizza analogy. Very well put and easy to understand:) I may use that too if you don't mind.

[deleted account]

I'm glad you liked that. It's how my son's developmental specialist described it to me. At the time, I completely didn't get it. She said that we made a pizza and I asked, "But when I walk out of here and my mother calls, what do I tell her?" She said it was autism and I asked, "You mean like Aspergers?" No, silly mother. *Autism* autism. Chalk it up to surprise, denial, confusion, etc. But long after the fact, it makes for a pretty good analogy.

April - posted on 03/18/2010




Autism is a disorder where a child doesn't interact, speak, or behave the same as a typical child. Because there is such a wide spectrum it's hard to pin it down to just a few of the signs, and I'm sure you're probably seeing all the same stuff when you're looking it up. Try looking at how other children around your child's age interact with each other and with their parents and see if your toddler is similar to them or obviously different from them. It's sometimes really hard to see the signs in your own child because you know them so well, that you just "get" how they are. I started to understand those people who were telling me my son was showing signs of autism when I really focused on how he was socializing with me and others. For example, when a typical child sees something they think is so cool, they usually point and try to get mom's attention as if to say "Do you see that cat, too? That's the most amazing thing I've ever seen!" My son would see the cat and get excited but he never involved me with his amazing find. It's different for every child, so if you think there might be something to this with your child, talk to your pediatrician or look into getting an evaluation with the free Early Intervention programs where you are. Also, it might help to check out a website like this:
It puts the diagnostic criteria into terms that are easier to understand. Hope that helps!

Kimberly - posted on 03/18/2010




Hi Mandy.. My son who is now 5, soon to be 6 was diagnosed with Autism a little before his fourth birthday. He developed like the normal healthy baby and ate just about anything and everything he wanted. But after about two and half his pediatrician and I began to worry because his speech wasn't improving and he wouldn't really focus on you when you would talk to him or call his name. At first we thought it was his hearing, but I knew that wasn't the case, he was just good acting as if he didn't hear you, but heard the television from another room just fine. So his dr. thought of the autism diagnosis and he was assesed and that's when they gave me the news. His autism also started with what language he had developed regressing and now he has all the signs. From picky eating, hand flapping when excited, screaming, banging on walls, I could go on. But he does have very good understanding of things people probably don't think he does. Discuss it with your childs doctor if you are concerned and feel the need to know what's wrong with your baby.. As the people who assesed him and the doctors always tell me. Only you know your child, they can only go by what you tell them and what they see for the short period of time they're with your little one.

Sharon - posted on 03/18/2010




hi mandy, i have a three year old son who has high functioning autism/aspergers syndrome, i knew from my son being very young that something wasnt quite right, the main things were he needed a very strict routine, if this would change it was like the end of the world to him, he is still like this, he asks the same thing over and over again untill he understands,when he gets excited he flaps his hands, he has a strange obsession with white goods and supermarkets, i could go on for ever, if you want to contact me further my email address is, pls feel free to contact me, if i can help i will, sharon

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