Developmental Autism

Anu R. Pathak, MD

Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine Physician located in Southbridge, MA

Approximately one in 59 children have autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but early intervention can help your child reach many developmental milestones. As a pediatrician with more than 20 years of experience, Anu R. Pathak, MD, and her dedicated team can help you determine whether your child has autism and help you figure out the best steps to take if they do. Dr. Pathak runs a number of comprehensive autism screenings and tests at her office in Southbridge, Massachusetts. To learn more, call the office or schedule an appointment online.

Developmental Autism Q & A

What is autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurobehavioral disorder that impacts a child’s ability to communicate, interact socially, express their emotions, and more. Some children with autism are high-functioning, while others may require round-the-clock care. In some cases, a child with autism can develop seizures.

Are there different types of autism?

ASD covers a broad range of developmental disorders, including:

Autistic disorder

Children with autistic disorder often struggle with significant communication challenges, early milestone delays, speech impairments, repetitive behaviors, and intellectual disabilities.

Asperger’s syndrome

Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are considered high-functioning and excel academically. While these children often have social challenges and unusual behaviors, they tend to be milder than those with autistic disorder. However, children diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome often form strict habits, repetitive speech, and are sometimes obsessed with specific topics.

Pervasive developmental disorder

Considered the highest functioning form of ASD, pervasive developmental disorder is the mildest on the spectrum. While a child with this disorder may struggle with language and social interactions, they typically do not have repetitive behaviors, obsessive behaviors, or developmental delays.

What are the symptoms of autism?

Some of the most common autism symptoms include:

  • Speech delays
  • Work avoidance in school
  • Repetitive movements
  • Problems understanding social cues
  • Lack of empathy
  • Learning disabilities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Troubles making eye contact
  • Emotional outbursts (screaming, crying, kicking, etc.)
  • Obsessive habits

Because there are three main types of autism, your child may not display all of the above autism symptoms. If you suspect they have a developmental disability, talk to Dr. Pathak about the next steps you and your family can take.

How is autism diagnosed?

There is no single autism test, and it’s exceptionally rare for a child to receive a diagnosis before the age of two. An autism diagnosis is typically a two-step process:

Developmental screening

A developmental screening is a relatively quick test that helps determine whether a child is experiencing developmental delays. 

While your child should come in for a screening at nine months, 18 months, and 24 months, Dr. Pathak may recommend additional visits if they’re already at risk for developmental disabilities. She may make this recommendation if your child was born prematurely, had a low birth weight, or has a close relative with ASD.

Comprehensive diagnostic evaluation

A comprehensive diagnostic evaluation is a complete review of your child’s behavior and developmental milestones. In addition to her own evaluation, Dr. Pathak and her team may interview you to ask specific questions about your child’s symptoms and behaviors.

This evaluation can often include medical testing, a hearing and vision test, and even neurological testing.

Are there other developmental conditions besides autism?

Dr. Pathak can help diagnose, treat, and manage a number of developmental disorders at her office, including:

  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Spina bifida
  • Certain intellectual disabilities
  • Cerebral palsy

If you think your child may have autism or another developmental disorder, call Anu R. Pathak, MD, or schedule an appointment online.