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Autism Specialist

Orange County Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Alejandra Suzuki, MD, FAPA

Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist located in Irvine, CA

Autism begins in childhood and is often present at birth, but its effects can vary significantly from person to person. If your child shows signs of having autism spectrum disorder, Alejandra Suzuki, MD, FAPA, at Orange County Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Irvine, California, can help. She offers expert diagnosis for a range of autistic disorders and helps families optimize quality of life for loved ones affected by autism. Call Orange County Child and Adolescent Psychiatry today or schedule a telehealth appointment online.

Autism Q&A

What is autism?

Autism is a broad term for neurodevelopmental disorders that can cause a wide range of behavioral and communication problems. As there are so many variations within autism, it's now often referred to as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Children with severe autism may not be able to communicate at all and need help with daily living. 

At the same time, children who have conditions at the other end of the spectrum — like Asperger's syndrome — can be independent and have successful careers, despite their difficulties with social interaction.

What are the symptoms of autism?

The early signs of autism tend to be behaviors that set an infant or young child apart from their peers. They might avoid eye contact, not engage in chatter with people caring for them, and spend a great deal of time focused on one object.

They might show little interest in making friends or playing with other children, preferring to be alone. They're often reluctant to talk unless it's essential to their needs, and it can be hard for them to understand their own and other people's emotions. Autistic people also find changes in routine very stressful.

You might notice your child repeats the same movements or has habits like arm flapping, rocking, and toe walking. They might be prone to outbursts of anger or hysteria when faced with something they don't like and seem happiest when pursuing their personal passions, over which they often become obsessive.

What causes autism?

The cause of autism isn't clear; however, there are risk factors that increase the chances of a child developing autism, such as:

  • Having older parents
  • Extremely low birth weight
  • Having a sibling with autism
  • Environmental factors

In some cases, genetic disorders such as Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis can trigger the development of autism. There's no evidence that autism is a result of a child's upbringing or routine immunizations.

To diagnose autism, Dr. Suzuki observes your child's behavior and looks at their medical and family history. Assessing autism often requires input from several areas of expertise, including psychology, neurology, psychiatry, and speech therapy.

How is autism treated?

Autism is incurable, but Dr. Suzuki offers therapies that can help make life easier for children and adults with autism. Possible interventions include:

  • Skill-oriented training
  • Applied behavioral analysis
  • Family counseling
  • Antidepressant medication
  • Antipsychotics
  • Stimulants

Understanding autism and learning how to live with the symptoms can be life-changing and enables many people to achieve their ambitions. Some even find that their autism gives them a unique perspective that helps them in their work.

For expert diagnosis and treatment of autism, call Orange County Child and Adolescent Psychiatry or book an appointment online.