Autism: Programs and Treatments
The Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities offers comprehensive services for children up to the age of 18 who may have autism or other neurodevelopmental disabilities. The Center focuses primarily in two areas:
- Early identification and treatment of autism spectrum disorder
- Treating the most medically complex cases of autism and neurodevelopmental disabilities
Leveraging the full resources within Children’s Medical Center, we provide comprehensive evaluation, treatment and support for children of all ages. We connect families with professionals in the field and help coordinate a wide range of services in the school and community. Our services include:
- Diagnostic evaluations for autism spectrum disorder
- Assessments of neurodevelopmental disabilities by pediatric neurologists
- Behavioral assessment and intervention
- Psychopharmacology consultation and treatment
- Educational assessments and support
- Speech and language evaluation and therapy
- Psychology evaluation and consultation
- Access to gastroenterologists, epileptologists, and sleep, genetics and radiology experts in our health care system
- Referral to regional treatment programs for longer term behavioral intervention in communities where families live
- Access to the newest therapies in our clinical trials research program
Diagnostic evaluations for autism spectrum disorder
There are currently no biological laboratory tests that can diagnose autism. Diagnoses are made through a combination of formal clinical observation of children and information gathered from parents’ expertise in their child’s development. However, a medical evaluation by a neurologist or other physician can be important to rule out a wide range of potentially treatable causes of autism.
During the evaluation, a psychologist may seek information about a child’s cognitive functioning, language and social communication skills, behavioral functioning and adaptive skills. Children may take some psychological tests, which may resemble school activities. These tests require the child to follow directions, answer questions and/or play.
Other evaluations will include parent participation in rating a child’s skills and behaviors. The length of time and number of appointments will vary, depending upon the age of the child, his or her language level and the complexity of other medical or behavioral conditions the child may have.
Pediatric neurology with neurodevelopmental disabilities specialists
Multiple neurodevelopmental disorders can cause intellectual disability and many of these can lead to behaviors in children similar to symptoms found in autism. Our goal is to provide full-spectrum medical care for all forms of developmental disabilities, with examples including:
- Chromosomal/Genetic Abnormality
- Fragile X Syndrome
- Developmental Regression
- Traumatic brain injuries
Our physicians may order tests such as an electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures the brain’s electrical activity; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses radio waves to create pictures of internal organs; and genetic testing to diagnose and treat your child’s conditions. Medications may be prescribed to help manage symptoms once a diagnosis has been determined.
Behavioral intervention program
The Autism Behavioral Intervention Program is designed to be a short-term, first treatment option shortly after an autism diagnosis is made. The purpose is to provide a multidisciplinary intervention approach to stabilize and reduce behavioral concerns so we can establish an effective treatment strategy and refer out for longer term care in the community.
The program provides empirically based behavioral techniques including an assessment of skills and abilities and creation of an individualized treatment plan specific to each child’s strengths and weaknesses. We provide a family support group and parent training to empower parents and help reduce stress in the family. We typically provide three-hour sessions twice a week in a program geared toward children from birth to the age of 5.
Psychopharmacology consultation and treatment
The psychopharmacology clinic is a consultative service to the area’s pediatricians, family physicians, psychiatrists and other physicians seeking guidance on treatment strategies for emotional and behavioral symptoms associated with autism and other developmental disorders that are not responding to first line care. The clinic also provides psychopharmacological treatment, combining the latest science of medication treatments, along with a committed and compassionate approach to patient care.
Speech and language evaluation and therapy
The speech-language pathologist may provide a diagnosis after assessing a child’s social use of language and interactive skills. After diagnosis, a speech-language pathologist may provide therapy, working with your child individually or in a small group of children to overcome difficulties.
Psychology evaluation and consultation
Our pediatric clinical psychologists are key members of our multidisciplinary team for evaluating and treating autism. They provide evaluations and consulting services, review testing, and make recommendations for educational programming based on each child’s unique strengths and weaknesses. The psychologists provide families guidance on behavioral management and educational programming.