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Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition affecting the nervous system and growth and development. It affects how someone connects with others, which can cause problems with social interaction and communication. ASD often shows up during a child’s first three years of life.

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The symptoms of autism spectrum disorder can vary widely from person to person. This is why the term “spectrum” is included in the name.

Some individuals with ASD seem to live in their own world. They may lack social awareness and have difficulty with:

  • Communicating with others
  • Speaking
  • Making eye contact
  • Understanding facial expressions or emotions in others

A child with ASD may also:

  • Not want to be touched
  • Want to play alone
  • Not want to change routines
  • Repeat movements like flapping their hands or rocking
  • Have unusual attachments to objects

Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Experts do not know what causes ASD. It may be caused by certain genes, problems with brain structure, or problems with certain chemicals in the brain. Boys are approximately four times more likely than girls to have ASD, and family history and other medical conditions can also increase risk.

Researchers do know that ASD is not caused by what a parent does to raise a child. It is also not linked to any vaccines given to children.

Rarely, other causes may include:

  • Being exposed to toxins in the environment before or after birth
  • Severe infections such as meningitis or encephalitis that result in brain damage
  • Problems during delivery
  • Infections before birth

UR Medicine's Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder


No single medical test can diagnose ASD, but healthcare providers use certain guidelines to help with diagnosis. At well-child checkups, children should be screened for ASD before the age of two. Healthcare providers will look for the following symptoms:

  • No babbling, pointing, or gesturing by one year old
  • No single words spoken by 16 months old
  • No two-word phrases by two years old, just repeating words or sounds of others
  • Loss of any language or social skills at any age
  • No eye contact at three to four months

If a child has any of the above symptoms, the provider will likely do more screening such as:

  • Neurological exams
  • Imaging tests such as CT scan, MRI, or PET scan
  • Mental health tests
  • Genetic tests


Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, but treatment is available to help. Treatment will vary based on the patient, and may include:

  • Behavior change programs to teach social skills, movement skills, and thinking skills
  • Special education programs to focus on social skills, speech, language, self-care, and job skills
  • Medicine
  • Therapy with a mental health provider
  • Group therapy

Your healthcare provider will help you find the treatment program that works best for you.

What Sets Us Apart?

UR Medicine’s Levine Autism Clinic provides comprehensive and coordinated care to children with ASD. Our team of experts monitors developmental progress, treats health problems associated with ASD, assesses, and treats behavior problems. We also make sure families have needed resources and connection to community support.

We are an Autism Speaks–Autism Care Network site. This means we use a standard protocol for diagnosis and pay special attention to the health and behavioral difficulties experienced with ASD.

Specialists in Child Neurology and Pediatric Behavioral Health and Wellness share our space, allowing for daily collaboration. We also coordinate with specialists in other departments such as Sleep Medicine, Pediatric Gastroenterology, and Pediatric Allergy.

Our team of experts includes a family navigator who works with families to understand the diagnosis and how to help their child. We also connect families with mentors and help them understand available educational and community systems.


We serve you in the Rochester metropolitan area and surrounding region.

View All Locations

4 locations

Golisano Behavioral Health & Wellness: Child and Adolescent Outpatient Services - Rochester
Part of Strong Memorial Hospital

1860 South Avenue, 1st Floor
Rochester, NY 14620

Golisano Behavioral Health & Wellness: Child and Adolescent Outpatient Services - Rochester
Part of Strong Memorial Hospital

187 Edinburgh Street
Rochester, NY 14608

Golisano Behavioral Health & Wellness: Child and Adolescent Outpatient Services - Rochester
Part of Strong Memorial Hospital

200 East River Road, 3rd Floor
Rochester, NY 14623

Additional Resources

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