A Special Resource to Take on Autism


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Experts aren’t sure why, but males are nearly five times more likely to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than females, with about 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls in the U.S. diagnosed with the disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Boy or girl, the key to success in treating ASD is to identify it early," says John Sweeney, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities at UT Southwestern.

“The longer we delay treatment, the poorer the outcome. So we identify it early and we treat it early,” he says. The Center offers comprehensive evaluations of cognitive, adaptive, social, and communication skills. In addition, medical examinations are conducted because ASD can carry with it a range of comorbidities, including gastrointestinal problems, sleep disorders, and epilepsy, according to Dr. Sweeney.

Watch For The Signs

If you suspect your child has ASD, check with your pediatrician for a referral to the Center. Common signs of ASD include:

  • Delayed language development
  • Reduced interest in social interaction
  • Repetitive behaviors and insistence on sameness
  • Unusual sensitivities to sounds and touch

If ASD is diagnosed, the Center offers a behavioral intervention program for young children, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and medications to help manage behavioral symptoms.

Evaluation and care are administered by specialists from UT Southwestern and Children’s Medical Center, who combine to offer expertise in the areas of neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics, psychology, and speech and hearing.

Additionally, researchers use the resources of both institutions to explore new approaches to diagnosis and treatment in several active research programs.

“The idea of our Center is to focus and integrate efforts so there’s a single place where people can come for comprehensive evaluation and treatment services,” Dr. Sweeney says.