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Conditions We Treat

Autism Program

What is Autism?

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts the way people behave and interact with others. People with autism are more likely to have co-occurring medical, neurodevelopmental, behavioral or psychiatric conditions such as epilepsyfragile X syndromeattention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disorders.

Characteristics of autism can range from very mild to quite severe, leading to a wide range of ways autism can present. Signs of autism typically appear in the first 3 years of life, but it may be diagnosed later.

Autism Characteristics and Behaviors

People with autism may have:

  • Verbal and nonverbal communication differences
  • Difficulty in social interactions and conversation
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Sensory differences
  • Difficulties adapting to change in routine or new environments

Characteristics of autism can range from very mild to severe, leading to a wide range of presentations. Signs of autism typically appear in the first 3 years of life, but autism may be diagnosed later.

I think my child might be on the autism spectrum. What should I do?

If you think your child may have autism or other developmental delays, we encourage you to talk to your child’s primary care physician. We also encourage you to get connected with early intervention or other therapies, even before your child is evaluated by a doctor.

Autism specific screenings performed by pediatricians are recommended at the 18-month and 24-month visits. If you are unsure if your child has been screened, we recommend that you ask your child’s primary care provider.

When you talk to your child’s pediatrician, we encourage you to ask whether hearing and/or vision screening would be helpful for your child. If you believe your child may be deaf or if you are a parent that has a child who is not babbling by 6 months or saying a single word by 1 year of age, then you should request a hearing test. If your child passed their newborn hearing screening, but you are still concerned, you should request an additional hearing test.

Ask your child’s pediatrician if they would recommend any other providers or therapies that may be helpful for your child. Children who have been recommended for autism evaluation often benefit from speech therapy and occupational therapy. These therapies can be started before an autism evaluation is completed.

For children under 3, request a free developmental evaluation and therapy services through the Arizona Early Intervention Program (AzEIP) at 602-532-9960. For children 3 through 18 years old, contact your local public school district to request a free evaluation for special education services. Even children who are not yet in school can receive an evaluation. Children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old may qualify for developmental preschool. It is important to know that AzEIP and school districts do not provide medical diagnoses of autism but are important for getting your child appropriate support services.

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