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Atrium Health Navicent Programs Help Children with Autism

Learn more about the signs of autism during National Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness Month and doctors at Atrium Health Navicent invite the community to help raise awareness about autism by learning more about the condition that affects 1 in 36 children in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability. People with autism often have problems with social communication and interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests. People with autism may also have different ways of learning, moving or paying attention.

Autism is four times more commonly diagnosed among boys than girls and affects children in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Autism begins before age 3 and can last throughout a person’s life, although symptoms may improve over time. Some children show symptoms within the first 12 months of life. In others, symptoms may not become visible until the child’s second birthday or later.

Early signs of autism include lack of eye contact, little sharing of sounds or facial expressions, delayed speech or lack of pointing to items of interest for social purposes. Physicians advise that parents should always have a conversation with their child’s care team when they have concerns about developmental skills or behavior.

“If parents have any concerns regarding their child's development, or they are seeing signs of possible autism, they should speak directly to their pediatrician and can request a referral for further evaluation. Our team at Atrium Health Navicent Children’s Care Pediatric Developmental and Behavioral Health is available to complete evaluations and provide services to help children grow, develop and thrive,” said Dr. Rachel Goodson, an Atrium Health Navicent developmental behavioral pediatrician.

Screening for autism is recommended to be completed by a pediatrician or other primary care provider at 18 and 24 months of age, even if there are no specific concerns for autism. If the screening shows concerns, children can then be referred for additional evaluations by a specialist.

Scientists believe there are multiple causes of autism, some known and some unknown. Research indicates that genetics are involved in the vast majority of cases. Children born to older parents also are at a higher risk for having autism. Parents who have one autistic child have a greater chance of having a second child who is also affected.

The good news is that Atrium Health Navicent Children's Care Pediatric Developmental and Behavioral Health offers many services to support individuals with autism and their families. These include speech therapy, feeding therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy for children. A licensed marriage and family therapist offers counseling services for individuals and families along with behavioral therapy. Additionally, the center offers coordination of care and medical management for many related conditions such as ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety.

“While there is no cure for autism, intervention services – when started early – can improve learning, social functioning and communication to help children to live their best lives, and to offer support for parents and other caregivers,” said April Colley, an Atrium Health Navicent Children’s Care Pediatric Developmental and Behavioral Health nurse practitioner.

For help finding a pediatrician or pediatric specialist, visit and click “Find A Doctor.”

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of health care in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent is part of Advocate Health, which is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the fifth-largest nonprofit health system in the United States, created from the combination of Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health,allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit