The Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM)

What is Autism?

Autism is a complex developmental disability that is present from birth or very early in development. It affects essential human behaviors such as social interaction, the ability to communicate ideas and feelings, imagination, self-regulation, and the ability to establish relationships with others. Although precise neurobiological mechanisms have not yet been established, it is clear that this disability reflects the operation of factors in the developing brain.

The Centers for Disease Control reports the diagnosis rate for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to be 1 in 88, making autism the fastest growing developmental disability in our state. Autism is four to five times more prevalent in boys than in girls and knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, life-style, and educational levels do not affect the chance of a child having autism. Autism currently is thought of as a "spectrum disorder." This means that the severity of symptoms differs in each individual with autism.

Mental health professionals currently diagnose autism based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, fourth edition (DSM-IV), published in 1994. This edition of the DSM includes both autism and Asperger's Syndrome as diagnoses. The DSM-IV does not use the term "autism spectrum". Autism and Asperger's Syndrome are listed in the category "Pervasive Developmental Disorders". There are three diagnoses in this category that are autism spectrum diagnoses: autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).

Changes in Diagnoses – DSM-V

In late 2012, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) approved a fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), signing off on a sweeping change to the definition of autism. The DSM-V, scheduled to go into effect in May 2013, eliminates autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder (not otherwise specified) by dissolving them into one diagnosis called autism spectrum disorder. According to the APA, this represents an effort to more accurately diagnose all individuals showing the signs of autism.

The DSM-V is important because it provides the diagnostic labels that governments, insurance companies, schools and other institutions use to determine the services needed by each individual. There is concern that changes in diagnostic labels will change access to services and programs for individuals with autism. Broad diagnostic criteria also could make it more difficult to grasp an already complex disorder that manifests itself differently in each individual, resulting in misdiagnosis and improper treatment.

About The Autism Society of Minnesota

Established in 1971, the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) is a self-funded organization committed to education, advocacy and support designed to enhance the lives of those affected by autism from birth through retirement.

AuSM offers programs, services and training for individuals, families, caregivers, educators, caseworkers, social workers, for-profit and non-profit companies. AuSM's website,, is the go-to information resource for the Minnesota autism community.

Autism Society of Minnesota's Programs and Services

Autism Training

AuSM provides autism training tailored to the needs of organizations, businesses, educators, employers and first responders. Training can include, but is not limited to: Autism 101, challenging behavior solutions, staff training/awareness, early identification and intervention, and social skills training.

AuSM Workshops

AuSM offers quarterly workshops on cutting-edge topics taught by field experts.

AuSM Skillshops

AuSM Skillshops are designed for individuals, parents, family members, caregivers and educators to discuss and solve problems on topics of interest.

AuSM Discovery Series

The AuSM Discovery Series is for parents, family members, relatives and caregivers of individuals who are newly diagnosed with autism. Discovery classes are focused: Positive Beginnings for newly diagnosed at any age, Inside Asperger's, Embracing Adolescence, and Adults on the Spectrum. Participants receive practical strategies and suggestions to help guide their life journeys.

AuSM Social Skills

AuSM Social Skills are classes that foster self-awareness and self-esteem by exploring the complexities of making friends, engaging in conversations and understanding the unwritten rules as individuals journey from the schoolyard to the workplace.


AuSM offers training and awareness sessions to local business diversity committees, human resource departments, hiring managers and leadership so companies can attract and retain the talents of individuals with autism.

Emergency Preparedness

AuSM created the Emergency Preparedness Program to help individuals with ASD, families, caregivers, educators, and public safety officers better prepare for and respond to emergencies. AuSM also has a 5-Point Scale Emergency app and a children's book, Awesome Heroes, that help prepare children with autism and first responders for emergencies.

Lending Library/Resource Directory

AuSM has an extensive lending library available to members and also offers a comprehensive online Resource Directory created from member recommendations for various services and programs.

Mental Health Services and Support Groups

AuSM provides mental health services for children, adults, and families. Individual, couples and family therapy helps those affected by autism overcome challenges, improve daily functioning, and achieve a more balanced lifestyle. AuSM also offers free audience-specific support groups.

Camp and Summer Programs

AuSM offers summer day and residential summer camps for members tailored for young people with autism (ages 6-21). Campers are cared for by highly trained, experienced staff and enjoy activities such as hiking, swimming, yoga, crafts, music, and much more. AuSM summers also include AuSM Zoo Skillz at Como Zoo, Teenz on the Town, and Art Skillz.

Navigating Autism

To ease the anxiety of airport travel, the Minneapolis Airport Commission (MAC), Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) and Fraser created the Navigating Autism program to guide families through the steps of an airport visit, from walking in the door to finding their seats on a plane.

Steps of Hope

Steps of Hope is AuSM's annual family fun walk for the Minnesota autism community. Donations support AuSM's programs and services and go back into the community through Steps of Hope Support Grants.

Annual Minnesota Autism Conference

The Annual Minnesota Autism Conference is the state's premier event for autism resources and education. The 2017 Conference will be held April 26-29, 2017 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Minneapolis Park Place.

AuSM Golf Classic

The AuSM Golf Classic is where golf and giving meet as foursomes to play a round to support the Minnesota autism community. The event includes an awards banquet and silent auction.

Autism & Employment Forum

The Autism & Employment Forum brings together employers, families, service providers, and individuals to raise awareness about employment and autism.


The Autism Society Minnesota is located at 2380 Wycliff Street #102 in St, Paul, Minnesota 55114. For more information visit their website at, call them at 651-647-1083 or send an email at