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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Early diagnosis and intervention for autism — now referred to as autism spectrum disorder — can make an important difference in your child’s life. If you suspect a problem, a good first step is to talk with your primary care physician.

At UF Health Jacksonville, you also have access to the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD), one of the area’s top autism care centers. At CARD, we focus on helping individuals with autism and related disabilities to achieve their full potential. We serve Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau and St. Johns counties and offer our comprehensive services at no charge.

What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

ASD is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder because it affects the development of the nervous system. It can affect how people learn, communicate and interact with the world. Symptoms typically appear in early childhood. The disorder is now thought to be four times more prevalent in boys than girls.

The autism experience is different for everyone. Though defined by a set of behaviors, it is referred to as a “spectrum” condition because it affects people differently and to varying degrees. For example, Asperger syndrome, once thought to be a separate condition, is now considered a mild form of autism and referred to as an autism spectrum disorder.

ASD: What you need to know

  • ASD affects the functioning of the brain and its ability to develop reasoning, social interaction and communication skills.
  • The exact cause is not known, though research now indicates there may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
  • Early diagnosis is an important first step to receiving needed support services and treatments.
  • Interventions may include medications, educational strategies or technologies that can help to train the brain.

ASD: Symptoms

ASD is not a single condition, so there are a wide range of symptoms. Here are the most common, though individuals on the spectrum have their own strengths and challenges.

  • Many people with ASD have some difficulty communicating with others, though this can range from being totally nonverbal to simply feeling uncomfortable when talking with people.
  • Individuals may exhibit repeated body movements or repetitive thoughts and behaviors as a way to deal with anxiety.
  • Many people with ASD become distressed with change, no matter how small.
  • For some, sensory overload can be caused by noise, smells, touch and bright lights and result in physical or emotional shutdowns.
  • Though some with ASD struggle with learning, others exhibit extraordinary gifts in mathematics, music or remembering facts about sports or other interests.

ASD: Our expertise

Our specialists at CARD can offer you a full range of diagnostic tests and research-based treatments. As dedicated ASD care providers, we work to ease challenges and help create a lifetime of successes.

One of our goals is to educate and empower individuals and families by providing individualized support and assistance. We provide information about an individual's disability and support families in planning for the future.

Our specialists also provide consultation on how to teach new skills, understand and resolve challenging behavior, develop meaningful communication skills, and help individuals live up to their potential. We also refer families to federal, state and local service agencies and help find support groups.

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News and Patient Stories: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

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