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Autism is a diagnosis which describes abnormal development in a child affecting language, inter-personal social skills, and results in a variety of unusual and dysfunctional behaviors. A diagnosis of autism is based on a spectrum, meaning the level of severity varies in each individual.

The symptoms typically develop between 12 and 24 months with a formal diagnosis made between 24 and 36 months. A delay in the development of language is the first symptom most parents report in the early stages. Children with autism often have a history of losing acquired language skills (regression) or mimicking words spoken to them (echolalia—normal up to two years of age).

Examples of impaired social development include poor ability to establish or maintain eye contact when addressing the child, as well as the child showing little interest in interacting with family or peers. Abnormal behaviors may include self-stimulation (head-banging, rocking, spinning), inability to play with toys appropriately or in an imaginative way, and a preference for routines and difficulty tolerating change or transition from one activity to another. Children with autism may also exhibits other behavior symptoms of hyperactivity, aggression, poor sleep patterns, insensitivity to environmental noises, and have limited range of foods they will eat.

Although there is not one agreed upon cause, currently, there are many theories as to why autism develops in children. However, there are a number of medical conditions that may be identified, which may result in treatment or giving parents a better understanding of their child’s long-term prognosis.

At Child Neurology Center of Northwest Florida, we screen children for abnormal brain development, seizures, sleep disorders, genetic, and metabolic diseases, all of which can result in autism. We refer children to appropriate rehabilitative therapies for speech and motor skills. We offer medical therapies to treat some of the more severe behaviors that place the child and family members at risk.


Although there is not a specific test for autism, researchers have demonstrated that a duplication of genetic material on chromosome 15 has been found in some patients with symptoms of autism. In addition to ordering tests to rule out genetic abnormalities, your provider may order metabolic tests, MRI scans of the brain, and EEG studies to evaluate the electrical functioning of the brain.


There are no specific medications used to treat autism. Treatment involves maximizing the child’s potential through therapies and ongoing assessments by parents, teachers, therapists, and medical providers. However, if behaviors develop that interfere with the child’s ability to learn and function in the home and in society, medications will be prescribed to address those specific behaviors.

  • Stimulants for ADHD symptoms
  • Methylphenidate
  • Ritalin
  • Focalin
  • Concerta
  • Daytrana
  • Metadate
  • Amphetamine
  • Adderall
  • Vyvanse
  • Medications for aggression & self-injury
  • Alpha Agonist Anti-hypertensives
  • Tenex
  • Intuniv
  • Neuroleptics
  • Risperdal
  • Seroquel
  • Abilify
  • Medications for anxiety, depression & OCD
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)
  • Prozac
  • Zoloft

Erlanger Resources

Pediatric Neurology