Autism and Learning Disabilities

We've talked about developmental delay, but it's good to know about other issues a child might have, even at a very young age.

Click on the boxes below each one to learn more about it:


What is autism?

Autism is also called Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. This name reflects that there is a wide spectrum- or range- of how severely a child may be affected, and in what ways. It can be very different in different kids.

Autism has to do with brain growth and development. It can affect people's social interactionscommunication, and behaviors.

People with autism often have trouble relating to people in ways that we consider typical. They may have issues like these:

  • trouble expressing themselves or reading the expressions of other people

  • repetitive physical behaviors

  • sensitivity to things like noise or textures of clothing

  • needing to have a very structured routine, and can get upset easily

Autism does not limit how smart kids are! Children with autism can be very smart and talented, sometimes in very specific and impressive ways.

Click on the link at the bottom of the page to download a fact sheet about Autism.


To learn more, see our other Guide: What to Do if Your Child has Autism.

  • Go to Tools at the top of your screen and choose Topics & Guides

  • Even if your child has not been diagnosed, you can use that Guide to learn more about it.

Sources: Interactive Autism Network, Autism Speaks

Learning Disabilities

What are learning disabilities?

There are many different types of learning disabilities. They affect how a child takes in new information, understands it and responds to it.

Here are a few important things to know: 

  • Kids can have a learning disability at a young age, but we often don't notice until they're in school. This is when their challenges show up, because they may have a hard time with things they're expected to do in school.

  • You can find out if a child has a learning disability through an evaluation (special test). The school system should offer this for free to any child over 3. (We'll tell you later how to set this up.)

  • This does not mean a child is not smart: they can learn successfully with the right kind of teaching.

  • Your child can do much better if you can catch this early and have them work with a trained special education teacher. 

To learn more, click on the title to go to this web page: Learning Disabilities. (It will open in a new tab on your screen.)


Source: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development