southside pediatric


Pediatrics & Adolescent Health located in Petersburg, VA
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Autism services offered in Petersburg, VA

About 2.3% of American children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). At Southside Pediatric Center, experienced board-certified pediatrician Mary Catherine Arrieta, MD, CGP, provides compassionate support for children with ASD and their families in the Petersburg, Virginia, area. Schedule your appointment through the online feature or call the office to set up a visit with Dr. Arrieta now.  

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or autism, is a complex developmental disability. Because of differences in brain development, some people with autism experience difficulties with social interactions, communication, and repetitive behaviors.  

Autism can affect people of any age but currently affects 1 in 59 children in the United States. 

What are the symptoms of autism in children?

The symptoms of autism in children may include:

Communication differences

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Failing to respond to name by 9 months old
  • Lack of varied facial expressions
  • Not playing interactive games like peek-a-boo by 12 months old
  • Not developing gestures like waving by 12 months old
  • Not pointing to show interest in something by 18 months old 
  • Not noticing or playing with other kids by 3 years old 
  • Not engaging in pretend play, like being a horse, by 4 years old
  • Not performing (singing, dancing, or acting) for you by 5 years old

Restrictive or repetitive behaviors

  • Strict routine when playing with toys
  • Distress at minor changes in the home, routines, or schedules
  • Distress when toys or favorite objects aren’t in a certain order
  • Repeatedly saying a word or phrase
  • Intense focus on the components of an item rather than the whole item 
  • Obsessive interests
  • Hand flapping, rocking, spinning, or other repetitive physical behaviors

In addition to these symptoms, your child may experience delayed language, cognitive, learning, and motor skills. Some children with autism show signs of hyperactivity, inattention, anxiety, and other issues. 

Usually, symptoms first appear at around 12-18 months, though it often takes longer for diagnosis, with the average age of diagnosis being 3-10 years old. 

Autism can vary quite a bit, so it may look different for your child. 

How is autism diagnosed?

There’s no simple lab test for autism, so your child will be referred to a child development specialist for screening.

How is autism treated?

Some of the different aspects of their care may include behavioral therapy, dietary changes, lifestyle changes, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and medication, along with many other approaches designed to improve quality of life and general wellness.