Every child develops at a different pace, and that’s okay as long as developmental milestones are met within a certain timeframe. If you notice that your child is developing more slowly than children of the same age, is having trouble communicating with you, is avoiding eye contact, is exhibiting behavioral outbursts — or has lost previously acquired skills — talk to your pediatrician, as these are some early signs of autism in children.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder (related to the nervous system) marked by impaired social interaction and communication skills, and repetitive behaviors. It’s a “spectrum” disorder, which means symptoms and functioning can range from mild to severe.
Traditionally, the term “autism” has been used to diagnose children with symptoms on the more severe end of the spectrum, and the terms “Asperger syndrome” and “pervasive development disorder-not otherwise specified” (PDD-NOS) have been used to diagnose children on the milder end of the autism spectrum.
Today, these types are collectively referred to as “autism spectrum disorder,” or ASD. This is because while all children with autism have difficulties along one or more of the same areas of development, they do not share the exact same symptoms or patterns of behavior.
Nemours Specialists Are Experts at Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders in Children
Diagnosing children with an autism spectrum disorder is complex and requires comprehensive evaluation by experienced pediatric specialists in different medical disciplines. Early intervention is proven to significantly improve symptoms and offer your child the best chance to adapt, grow and thrive into adulthood. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor sooner, rather than later.
At Nemours, our teams of autism specialists — including psychologists and psychiatrists, child neurologists, neuropsychologists, developmental pediatricians, occupational/speech and language therapists, and applied behavior analysis therapists — provide compassionate, comprehensive autism evaluations and treatments to help your child have the brightest, most productive future possible.
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For Appointments: (904) 697-3600
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- names and dosage of all medications, including over-the-counter medication, your child is currently taking
- guardianship and custody papers, if a legal guardian rather than a parent accompanies your child
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Note: A parent or legal guardian must be with a child for a first visit.
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As a parent, you know the importance of going to the doctor when your child is ill. The same is true if you notice that your child is not developing as other children of the same age, is having trouble communicating with you, interacting with other kids, or is avoiding eye contact. These are all signs of autism in children. At Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, our child behavior specialists are experts in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating autism in children. We can help your child and your family, and give you hope for a better tomorrow.
Autism in children is one of a group of developmental problems called autism spectrum disorders, meaning autism symptoms can range from mild to severe. These symptoms typically occur in children before age 3, and can affect the development and function of your child’s socialization, communications, and behavior.
- lack of eye contact
- language delays or speaks with abnormal tone or rhythm
- fails to respond when called as if not to hear you call
- overly preoccupied with one area of interest
- repetitive movements
- becomes disturbed when routines change
- prefers to play alone, retreats to his or her own world
- may be sensitive to light, touch, sound, and sometimes has a high tolerance of pain
Diagnosing autism in children involves evaluation by a specialist, and does not include other tests such as a MRI or blood tests.
Once your child is referred to us for evaluation, you and your child will meet with a member of our behavioral health team. We’ll assess your child’s condition by gathering information from you and others who regularly interact with your child.
Some of the information we’ll need includes:
- a review of all your child’s health records
- your child’s school records
- interviews with you and your child
- observing your child’s behavior
- the Autistic Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), may be done as part of the comprehensive assessment to evaluate the level of autism symptoms in children
From this information, and using guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), we’ll develop an appropriate treatment plan just for your child.
After a diagnosis has been determined, our specialists will offer recommendations that are tailored to your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Also, we’ll work with community providers for applied behavior analysis therapy, an excepted treatment method that uses behavioral psychology techniques to reinforce language, social, and behavioral skills.
Depending on your child’s condition, we may also recommend your child be seen by speech/language therapists, and occupational therapists, too.
- Child psychologists: Also called pediatric psychologists, licensed mental health professionals with a doctorate degree, and who specializes in the study of childhood development as it relates to behaviors and emotions. While they don’t prescribe medications, they can help monitor the effects of medication therapy on your child.
- Child psychiatrists: Also called pediatric psychiatrists, medical doctors with advanced training in preventing, diagnosing, and treating mental illness. In addition to psychotherapy, child psychiatrists may prescribe medication therapy when necessary.
- Neuropsychologists: mental health professionals with a doctorate degree, specializing in studying how the brain affects your child’s action and thought.
- Advance nurse practitioner (ARNP): nurses with specialized training in the therapy and medication management of children and teens with mental health issues
- Other Nemours specialists your child may see for a medical condition.