What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

What is ASD?

There’s a famous quote from Dr. Stephen Shore, “If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism”. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a group of neuro-developmental disorders caused by differences in the brain.

There is great concern that rates of autism have been drastically increasing in recent decades without a full explanation as to why.

Researchers have found that some people with ASD have known differences, such as specific genetic conditions like Fragile X Syndrome (which causes intellectual disability) and Tuberous Sclerosis (which causes benign tumors to grow in the brain and other vital organs). Other causes are not yet known.

While we still have much more to learn about this lifelong complex developmental disorder and how it impacts individuals with ASD, we do know the severity of impairment in functioning varies between every individual. People with ASD typically have persistent challenges with communication, learning, and social interaction and may display repetitive patterns of behavior or have narrow, restricted interests. It is important to note that some people without ASD might also have some of these symptoms. For people with ASD, these characteristics can make life very challenging.

The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities.  Learning and thinking can range from extremely gifted to needing severe help.

ASD occurs in every racial and ethnic group, and across all socioeconomic levels. However, statistically, males are diagnosed with autism more often than females, albeit this ratio is changing over time.

How is ASD diagnosed?

Diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorder. During periodic checkups, Doctors should look for any noticeable delays in the child’s behavior or development, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening children specifically for autism at 18- and 24-month well-child pediatric visits.

Very early indicators that require evaluation by an expert include:

  • no babbling or pointing by age 1
  • no single words by age 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
  • no response to name
  • loss of language or social skills previously acquired
  • poor eye contact
  • excessive lining up of toys or objects
  • no smiling or social responsiveness

Later indicators include:

  • impaired ability to make friends with peers
  • impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
  • absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
  • repetitive or unusual use of language
  • abnormally intense or focused interest
  • preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
  • inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals

Studies have shown that early diagnosis and intervention of autism is more likely to have major long-term positive effects on symptoms and development of later skills. In general, the earlier ASD is diagnosed, the better the outcome is for the child. Unfortunately, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until they are much older, and some are not diagnosed until they are adolescents or even adults.

How is ASD treated?

While there is no “cure” for autism, there are several effective interventions that can improve a child’s functioning:

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): The gold standard of treatment for autism, ABA is the proven science and data-driven approach that involves a systematic study of the child’s functional challenges, which is used to create a structured behavioral plan for improving their adaptive skills and decreasing inappropriate behavior

  • Early intervention: Programs like the Behavior Exchange Early Start (B.E.E.S.) focus on foundational early learning and social skills giving children the tools to help make a smooth transition to school and successfully interact with peers
  • Social skills training: Social Skills Groups help children learn and practice important social skills for making friends and fulfilling connections with peers
  • Parent training: Children are most successful when parents can continue practicing techniques at home and in other real-life settings and they have the tools to use anywhere and in any situation with their child
  • Special Education Services: Special education services picks up where early intervention services leave off. The goal is to align your child’s school environment with their behavioral goals to ensure the best outcomes. ARD/IEP advocacy can provide an expert voice for families during special education service meetings and processes in schools.
  • ABA School Support: Providing schools and entire school districts with supplemental ABA therapy services to meet new challenges

What to do if I suspect my child has autism?

Contact your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician if you think your child might have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or if you have any other developmental delay concerns about the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts.

If you receive a diagnosis of autism or delayed development disorder, call The Behavior Exchange as soon as possible at 972.312.8733. We can create a customized, early intervention treatment plan for your child, where our ABA therapy experts work with them several days a week. Most children start in One-on-One Therapy and graduate to B.E.E.S. (Behavior Exchange Early Start), our school readiness program.





Ashvina attended University of Bombay and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce. She got her Montessori Diploma in 1985 and taught ever since. Ashvina came to TBE in January of 2016 as Admin Assistant. During the years she got the opportunity to learn and work in different departments such as HR, Finance, Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Last summer TBE bought billing in house and her current focus area is Revenue Cycle Management. She is detail oriented and enjoys working with people. Ashvina volunteers to deliver meals to seniors and local shelters on the weekend. She loves to spend time with her family and grandkids. Ashvina loves her job because she enjoys hearing different points of view, and she feels her contributions help fuel the direction of our company.

Working with children comes naturally to Angela. Her mom was a special education teacher for 30 years and often had Angela join her for Take Your Child to Work Day. And in high school, Angela spent every summer as the nanny for a little boy with an autism spectrum disorder. It was this experience where her passion for working with children with autism started to blossom.

From there, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in a non-normative development class and from that moment knew that ABA would be her life’s work.

Angela moved to the DFW area shortly after and began working at The Behavior Exchange as a therapist. She worked on her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the same time. A year after graduating, she earned certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Now, as a Clinical Director at The Behavior Exchange, she brings a life-long passion to her work, holding a special place in her heart for children with limited language skills and working closely with families to develop healthy sleep habits.

Danielle’s passion for working with families is deeply personal and from the heart. Her younger brother has an autism spectrum disorder, and through their journey as a family, she found her purpose in life as an advocate for individuals with special needs.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Danielle began volunteering at The Behavior Exchange. She saw passionate therapists, meaningful change for clients, and families with hope for the future. After a summer of volunteering, she officially joined the team as Director of Admissions and found her home with The Behavior Exchange family.

With her extensive experience working as a client advocate with insurance providers, Danielle perseveres to help individuals of all ages and abilities receive the services they need to reach their full potential. She feels truly honored by each and every family who entrusts The Behavior Exchange to be part of their journey and is committed to the organization’s core values, mission, and goal of being a beacon of hope for the community.

Adam has always had a passion for helping individuals of all ages thrive and reach their full potential. He’s also an enthusiastic musician, songwriter, leader, and devoted family man, who has been helping children and team members grow with The Behavior Exchange since 2010.

Prior to joining the team at The Behavior Exchange, Adam was a mortgage loan consultant and grad student, pursuing his master’s degree in Education at the University of North Texas. He graduated in 2013 and also earned a graduate academic certificate in Autism Intervention. The following year, after years as a Behavior Therapist and seeing first-hand the power of ABA and the meaningful impact it can have on children and their families, Adam became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He then commenced from the Stagen Leadership Academy after completing the Integral Leadership Program (ILP), a 52-week practice-based program designed to develop executives serious about transforming themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

Adam is truly grateful to be a part of a dynamic, inspiring and compassionate team, and he’s dedicated to bettering the lives of all children and their families through the delivery of the highest quality of ABA services, while supporting the amazing team at The Behavior Exchange.

Soraya is from South Africa and moved to Texas in 1996. She graduated from The University of Texas and pursued a career, at that time, in Education. Soraya taught at a Montessori school for a few years and then took on a leadership role.

During her time in the education system, Soraya realized her passion was to assist children with special needs. So she joined The Behavior Exchange as a therapist, transitioned into a supervisory role in 2017, and a year and a half later, was promoted to Clinical Operations Manager.

She quickly learned the ins and outs of ABA operations and scheduling and successfully collaborates across departments to ensure The Behavior Exchange continues to provide quality services to clients and their families. She’s thankful to be part of such an amazing organization and excited to see what the future holds.

You could say Walter’s career started when he spent hours as a young child drawing superheroes and coloring maps. This passion, along with extraordinary swimming skills, landed him a full swimming scholarship at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Graphics.

During the next 13 years, his design and art direction skills, conceptual-thinking abilities, and marketing-savvy know-how were honed at a few prestigious advertising and marketing agencies around the Dallas area. In the mid 2000s, he helped his wife Tammy Cline-Soza (founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange) create a unique and concise brand for her new business. From logos and websites to uniforms, brand voice and visuals, Walter has been the main creative force for all things The Behavior Exchange.

Aside from giving birth to The Behavior Exchange brand, Walter is helping Tammy raise two amazing, beautiful children, River and Sierra. In his spare time (the two minutes he’s got per week), you can find Walter illustrating iconic landmarks of Dallas and Texas or looking around for this next open-water swim. Once he gets back in shape.

After 20 years of building The Behavior Exchange, literally from the ground up,
Tammy couldn’t be more proud of the team, culture, and organization that it has become.

As a family helping families, The Behavior Exchanges looks for opportunities that will make the biggest impact and produce life-changing outcomes – for clients, families, and even for team members. Tammy believes that if a team, a family, a community takes care of each other, the possibilities are endless and the relationships built along the way can make life more enriching and challenges easier to navigate. You could say her goal has been to build a kind of utopia full of support, love, and expertise that brings the best services possible to the community and ensures more families have access to those services.

Tammy and her family have dedicated their lives to the mission of The Behavior Exchange and continue to grow, learn, cultivate, challenge, support, and create better models for success. To that end, she is committed to her own leadership development and actively participates in advanced training, mentoring, and deep self-exploration on how to live out her purpose to love and support her family and help others reach their full potential. She takes her position very seriously and tries to serve as a channel for what the universe wants to come to fruition.

She also loves travel, gardening, being creative, MUSIC!, tennis, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, being in nature, adventures, and more than anything, spending time with her husband Walter and their two beautiful children, River and Sierra.