What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulty with social communication and social interaction (starting a conversation, following social rules, and perspective taking) and the presence of restricted, repetitive behaviors (e.g., lining up toys).

Risk for ASD can be detected early, often through screening tools available to pediatricians. Children suspected of having ASD are referred to a team of professionals, including speech language pathologists, for a comprehensive evaluation. This includes a comprehensive assessment of receptive and expressive language, including social communication, and speech. Additionally, information is gathered from family history, and parent and teacher interviews, within the context of cultural and linguistic considerations.


At UWSHC, we evaluate clients (ages 3-25) who already have or are in the process of obtaining a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder or social communication disorder to provide additional information and to inform treatment. For children, adolescents and young adults who do not already have a diagnosis of ASD, we can provide information about speech and language skills and make a referral to a multidisciplinary team for a full ASD evaluation.


Treatment for the social communication challenges associated with ASD is tailored to each client’s needs and is a collaboration between clinicians, the client, and the family in order to optimize the client’s communication and participation in their family and community. Best practices in treatment include, but are not limited to using multiple modalities in communication, incorporating activity schedules and visual supports, focusing on initiating spontaneous communication in functional activities, engaging in reciprocal communication interactions, and generalizing gains across activities, environments, and communication partners.

Associated Faculty

Julie Dunlap, MS, CCC-SLP - Senior Lecturer and Supervisor; Pediatric Unit Coordinator
Kate Krings, MS, CCC-SLP - Lecturer and Supervisor
Tanna Neufeld, MS, CCC-SLP - Lecturer and Supervisor
Amy Rodda, MS, CCC-SLP - Lecturer and Supervisor
Sara Kover, PhD - Assistant Professor; Researcher
John Thorne, PhD, CCC-SLP - Lecturer and Supervisor; Researcher 
Laura Snow, MS, CCC-SLP - Lecturer and Supervisor

Additional Resources

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)