The NewYork-Presbyterian Phyllis and David Komansky Center for Children’s Health offers a comprehensive program for the diagnosis and treatment for children with autism, a developmental brain disorder that typically appears during the first three years of life.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by:

  • social impairments
  • communication difficulties, and
  • restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior

Autistic disorder, sometimes called autism or classical ASD, is the most severe form of ASD, while other conditions along the spectrum include a milder form known as Asperger syndrome, a rare condition called Rett syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder. Although ASD varies significantly in character and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group. Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have ASD. Males are four times more likely to have ASD than females.

Common Signs of Autism

A significant feature of ASD is impaired social interaction. Parents are usually the first to notice signs of ASD. As early as infancy, a baby with ASD may be unresponsive to people or focus intently on one item to the exclusion of others for long periods of time. A child with ASD may also appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social interactions.

Children with ASD may fail to respond to their names and often avoid eye contact with other people. They have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can’t understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions, and don’t watch other people’s faces for clues about appropriate behavior.

Many children with ASD engage in repetitive movements such as rocking and twirling, or in self-abusive behavior such as biting or head-banging. Children with ASD don’t know how to play interactively with other children. Some speak in a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking.

Diagnosing Autism

A comprehensive evaluation requires a multidisciplinary team, including a psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist, and other professionals who are trained in the diagnosis of children with ASD. Neurologists and Child Development specialists at the Komansky Center evaluate, diagnose and treat children with autism and other developmental disorders. Families with children exhibiting developmental abnormalities receive a comprehensive assessment and recommended treatment, which may include a combination of therapies, such as applied behavioral analysis, speech therapy, special education, and occupational therapy.

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