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Autism: Explaining the spectrum

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that causes impairment of social interaction, communication (both verbal and nonverbal), behavior and interest. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment or disability that children with ASD can have. Some children are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled.

Symptoms of ASD vary from one child to the next, but in general, they fall into two areas:

  1. Social impairment - including difficulties with social communication, recognizing nonverbal cues or body language, and/or forming and maintaining relationships.
  2. Repetitive, odd and/or stereotyped behaviors – including rigid patterns of behavior, such as an absolute need to maintain a routine or schedule, interests that are excessive or unusual, and/or sensitivities to light, sounds or touch.

Parents are usually the first to recognize concerning changes in their child’s behavior; and this should always be brought up with the child’s pediatrician. Pediatricians can do an initial assessment as to what may be causing these behavioral changes, and may then refer the child to a neurodevelopmental specialist who can make the diagnosis after a series of neuropsychological tests. The diagnosis and treatment of ASD involves the collaboration of a team of specialists. Our area is fortunate as Cone Health has an exceptional, comprehensive network of pediatricians, neurodevelopmental specialists and other related healthcare providers dedicated to treating children with ASD throughout the community.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Steven Altabet is a clinical psychologist at Cone Health Developmental and Psychological Center, as well as LeBauer Behavioral Medicine. Dr. Altabet earned his PhD in Clinical/School Psychology at Hofstra University in 1994 and has worked in various clinic settings for the past 20 years. Prior to moving to North Carolina in November 2013, he served as the Clinic Director for the University of Washington Autism Center’s Tacoma Clinic.

As a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Altabet specializes in behavioral, developmental and intellectual/learning disorders and provides diagnostic assessment, behavioral consultation and psychotherapy services for children, adolescents and adults of all cognitive abilities.