Autism

Autism is a developmental disability that can cause communication, socialization and behavior problems. We recognize the challenges that parents of children with autism experience, and we are here to help. Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Network offers comprehensive evaluations for autism, as well as referrals for therapy to manage autistic behavior.

Why Choose Mary Bridge for Autism Evaluation?

Parents bring their children to us for autism evaluation because we provide:

  • High quality care: Our pediatric neurology specialists are all experienced physicians with years of expertise in diagnosing autism spectrum disorders. We understand children’s developmental needs and work with schools to make sure children have what they need to be successful.
  • Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy referrals: ABA therapy is the main treatment for managing autistic behaviors. Many insurance plans only accept referrals from neurologists at designated centers of excellence such as ours.
  • Dedicated autism nurse navigator: An autism diagnosis can be stressful for parents. You may have many questions. Our hospital offers the area’s only autism nurse navigator to help guide you through the diagnosis and treatment process.

What Is Autism?

Autism affects roughly one in 68 children and is more common among boys than girls. Symptoms and levels of disability vary widely among individuals, which is one reason why doctors also call it autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Up to 30 percent of children with autism also have  epilepsy, a disorder that causes repeated seizures.

Symptoms of autism include speech and communication problems, such as:

  • Developmental delays, especially delayed speech
  • Difficulty with socialization or lack of interest in other children
  • Trouble understanding directions
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings or describing their own

Other behaviors that are also symptoms of autism include:

  • Repeated slapping of the hands, flicking of the fingers or putting them in front of their eyes
  • Unusual play behaviors such as lining up toys
  • Obsessive interest in a particular topic
  • Inflexibility with daily routines
  • Emotional outbursts from disrupted routines or new environments

If you suspect your child may have autism, the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised (M-CHAT-R™) can help you identify symptoms.

Diagnosing Autism

Your child’s pediatrician should screen your child for ASD and other developmental disabilities at 18- and 24-month checkups. If your pediatrician suspects a developmental disability such as autism, the doctor will likely refer you to a specialist for a complete evaluation.

Specialists diagnose autism by evaluating a child’s behavior and development. Our pediatric neurology specialists are experts at diagnosing ASD. Depending on your child‘s needs and symptoms, our comprehensive evaluation may include:

  • Hearing and vision screening
  • Genetic testing
  • Neurological testing

Early diagnosis is key to early intervention, helping children with autism gain speech and socialization skills while they are still young. Learn more about  diagnosis and testing.

Autism Treatment

Currently, no medications exist to treat autism or its core symptoms. Specialists may prescribe medications to manage related conditions, such as hyperactivity, depression or seizures.

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is one of the main treatments for managing behavior problems associated with autism. This widely accepted treatment approach helps children develop positive behaviors and minimize negative behaviors to improve overall function.

While we do not provide ABA therapy, we are a designated center of excellence for ABA therapy referrals and can connect you with an excellent ABA therapy specialist. Many insurance plans in the state only cover ABA therapy for referrals from neurologists at designated centers of excellence.

Learn more about our  autism services.

Comprehensive Autism Support

We offer a wide range of services to help children and families manage autism and related conditions, including:

  • Child life specialists: We understand the unique challenges of medical treatment for children with autism. Our team includes child life specialists to help your child cope, taking special precautions to minimize any distress your child may experience.
  • Autism nurse navigator: We have the area’s only dedicated autism nurse navigator, who helps coordinate care with other specialists so children can achieve their fullest potential. We also help patients transition to adult care. Our personal health partners (PHPs) can connect you with resources for respite care if necessary. Find out more about our  support services.
  • Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic: Many children with autism also have sleep disorders. Our clinic has one of the only sleep specialists nationwide who is also a pediatric neurologist. Learn more about our  Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic.
  • Epilepsy Services: Epilepsy is common among children with autism. We see a high number of epilepsy patients and offer a full range of treatment options. Find out more about our  epilepsy services.
  • Complex care team: We offer streamlined care coordination for children with conditions requiring significant follow-up care. Learn more about  our complex care team.

Autism Resources

For more information on autism, you can visit:

Contact Us

Call us at 253-792-6630 to make an appointment with one of our specialists.

For current patients with non-urgent needs, you can reach our autism nurse navigator at 253-403-7328.