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Telecare: 811
Poison: 1-800-565-8161
5850/5980 University Ave., Halifax, NS B3K 6R8

Facts About Autism Spectrum Disorder

Three areas are affected in autism: social development, communication, and thinking/behaviour.  The specific signs vary widely from one child (or adult) to another. The terms “autistic spectrum disorder” (ASD) and “pervasive developmental disorder” (PDD) both describe this range. Autism and related disorders such as Asperger syndrome are included in ASD/PDD.

At least 1 in 150 children have an ASD.

ASD is about 4 times more common in males.

Symptoms of ASD are usually seen in the first three years of life.

ASD is a life-long disorder of brain development. Cause(s) of ASD are not yet understood; genetic factors are important in some cases.

Early intervention can make a great difference.


Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder

A diagnosis of ASD depends on the number and pattern of signs, which may include:

1. Social development

Less awareness of other people and their feelings

Unusual use of eye contact

Preference for doing things alone

Difficulty playing/working in groups

Difficulty making friends

2. Communication

Delayed or disordered use of speech and gesture

Poor understanding of language, gesture, and facial expressions

Unusual speech “melody”

Repetitive speech; may include echoing what other people say

Difficulty with taking turns in conversation

3. Behaviour

Need to follow strict routines/difficulty with change in routines

Repetitive behaviours (e.g. hand flicking, asking the same questions)

Unusual reactions to the sound, sight, touch, smell or feel of things

4. Learning deficits

Difficulty relating skills learned in one environment to another (generalization)

Uneven learning profile

Difficulty with abstract concepts

5. Associated features

Toilet training, sleeping, and/or eating problems

Sudden mood changes; anxiety 

Specific fears

Lack of awareness of danger

Self-injurious behaviour


Getting Help

IWK Autism Team

Provides diagnostic, consultation and intervention services for children and adolescents and their families within Capital District Health Authority.

For referral:

Tel.: (902) 470-7730 or 470-8885   

Fax: (902) 470-7348

IWK Autism Team

c/o Psychological Services

IWK Health Centre 

5850/5980 University Avenue

PO Box 9700

Halifax, NS B3K 6R8


What to expect

A variety of clinicians may be members of your child`s team. They may include a specialist physician, a clinical psychologist, a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a social worker, a nurse, a psychiatrist, an early intervention worker or educator.  The members of your child`s team may change over time depending on your child and your families needs.

Preparing for a Diagnostic Assessment

When you come to the IWK for an ASD assessment you might want to consider bringing a list of questions with you, as it can be easy to forget some of the important questions you may have.  In addition, you will be asked for a number of details about your child’s development so it might be a good idea to bring along some notes if you are worried that you may forget some details.

Preparing for an Intervention Appointment

When you are coming for a treatment visit (for example, with a psychologist, occupational therapist, or pediatrician) you may want to think about identifying particular challenges, what has been helpful to date and what hasn`t been. It is helpful to know what you think the most important change or improvement should be. As well, bring any questions you have about your child specifically and ASD and child development in general. From there, the team can create goals and strategies together.  

Post  Diagnosis

Following a diagnosis you will want to ensure that you discuss any possible services your child requires and may be eligible for.  If your child is preschool age, they may qualify for Early Intensive Behavior Intervention (EIBI).  If they are school age, they may qualify for a Positive Behavior Support group(PBS), a Face your Fears Anxiety Group or individual treatment from a number of other healthcare professionals (e.g., occupational therapist, social worker, psychologist, speech language pathologist, developmental pediatrician or nurse).


The Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (EIBI) program provides direct intensive service to young children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. The EIBI program provides evidence-based treatment based on the principles of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) and recent research about child development. The main form of treatment is Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT). Depending on the specific needs and skills of the child and family, other treatments might include the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and Positive Behaviour Support (PBS). 

The program is funded through the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness, and is offered across the province through each of the  District Health Authorities (DHA)  in partnership with Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres (NSHSC).  In Capital District Health Authority , DHA9, the program is offered through the IWK Health Centre in collaboration with Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres (NSHSC).  Here is the link to the map of the DHA`s (http://novascotia.ca/DHW/about/DHA.asp).

For more information on the EIBI program please visit the following link http://www.gov.ns.ca/health/mhs/pubs/Intensive_FAQ.pdf

Positive Behavior Support

This group helps teach parents the skills of analyzing behaviors by collecting data, assessing the child and the data collected and reviewing strategies for preventing and managing behaviors that are associated with autism spectrum disorders.

Face your Fears

This group uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and focuses on teaching children and teens, with autism spectrum disorder, how to cope with their anxiety while teaching parents how to help coach their children in dealing with their anxiety.


Autism Support Group
Information and support for families.
For more information please call Paulette Butz at 902-865-3970 or
Contact Merrill Cunningham at BedfordSackville@autismns.ca

Autism Nova Scotia

(902) 446-4995
Toll Free (877) 544-4495

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