Skip to main content

Autism: a Q&A with The Cleveland Clinic

Aug 05, 2016 11:54AM, Published by Today's Family, Categories: Health Cleveland Clinic, Health



By Jamie Lober

A new government survey shows that more than 1 in 45 U.S. children aged 3 and over have autism. Previously, experts estimated that 1 in 68 U.S. children had autism. This has raised some concern in the community and people’s interest in learning about the behavioral health issue has surged. We were also able to sit down with a great autism expert, Dr. Leslie Markowitz, pediatric psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism, who commented on what has contributed to the rise in diagnoses.

Q. Why has the rate of autism gone up?
A.
It is believed that the rise in autism is due to an actual increase but also better classification. For instance, children or individuals who previously may have been labeled as having intellectual disability or what we call mental retardation may have had autism. We are getting better as professionals and parents are also getting better at being more aware of some of the symptoms, concerns and talking to providers earlier on to help identify kids with autism as early as possible.

Q. Do we know what causes autism?
A.
We know there is a strong genetic link and there are a lot of genes and specific parts of genes that have been identified that likely play a role. We know that a lot of kids who have Fragile X [the most common known cause of inherited intellectual disability] are likely to have a diagnosis of autism for instance. There is also an environmental piece which is more heavily debated among individuals.

Q. Are some people at higher risk?
A.
There is a large amount of research that supports early identification being the key so we want to identify kids who are at risk, meaning those who are born prematurely and kids who have older siblings who have been diagnoses with autism. We want to be more proactive as a medical team in monitoring these kids at 18-months or younger and getting them into services so there are better outcomes.

Q. Are there signs of autism?
A.
It is a spectrum disorder so we look for difficulties with social engagement, social interaction with others, looking at caregivers, interacting, responding to back and forth games, restricted or repetitive behaviors, kids who do odd finger movements over and over or flap their arms. We also look at kids who are rigid or have a hard time with change, or children who have really intense interests. For example, a child who is just fascinated by windmills and will stare at them and as they get older want to read books on them. We also look at the behavioral aspect and the social aspect.

Q. Can kids with autism be successful?
A.
There is a wide range of outcomes depending on not only early intervention, but type of services that are received, quality of services and other factors.

Q. Are there conditions similar to autism that we should look out for?
A.
There are some conditions or diagnoses with similar symptomology like ADHD in really young kids or language delays. There may be a global developmental delay which means that a child is delayed in multiple areas and can be hard to pick apart whether there is a general delay or one that is specific to autism.

Q. Does autism coincide with other conditions and can they be managed?
A.
There are a lot of common comorbidities [presence of one or more additional disorders] with autism, so kids with autism can also be anxious, have difficulties with depression or have language or speech delays. Treatment will depend largely on the child’s age and level of functioning. There is good support that speech therapy can help. There are other specific targeted treatments and interventions that can play a big role in helping these kids.

Q. What do you do if you suspect your child has autism?
A.
If you have concerns, absolutely bring them up to your pediatrician, nurse practitioner or whoever you see on a regular basis for well-child checks. By vocalizing your concerns to those professionals you will be provided with referrals to get your child started in speech services, physical therapy or other things he may need.

Q. What does the future hold for kids with autism?
A.
There is a lot of research going on nationally and internationally to not only figure out what causes it and to look at genetic research, but also look more in depth at interventions that can be done to help these kids and really capitalize on some of their strengths. We want to put them on a path to be the most successful people they can be. I want to emphasize that getting them identified early and started in services is what we know is the most beneficial as far as long-term outcomes.

For questions or to make an appointment, call the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism at 216-444-5437.



Health Cleveland Clinic


  • Concerts and more at the Glen

    08/17/2017
    07:00PM — 08:30PM

    Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Bring a picnic to enjoy before the show. Snacks and beverages are ...


  • Euclid Farmers' Market

    08/18/2017
    03:00PM — 06:30PM

    Market features locally grown and organic produce, baked goods, bedding plants, herbs, candles an...


  • Sparx City Hop

    08/19/2017
    11:00AM — 06:00PM

    As patrons loop through neighborhoods on trolleys, tour guides will share interesting facts and p...


It looks like we don't have any events for this date. You can always add an event.

It looks like we don't have any events for this date. You can always add an event.

It looks like we don't have any events for this date. You can always add an event.

  • Wade Oval Wednesdays

    08/16/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Enjoy a FREE concert, food trucks, vendors, theme nights, and activities vary each week and are a...


  • This program explains a new understanding of pain, as well as methods of treating your own pain w...


  • Concerts and more at the Glen

    08/17/2017
    07:00PM — 08:30PM

    Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Bring a picnic to enjoy before the show. Snacks and beverages are ...


  • Euclid Farmers' Market

    08/18/2017
    03:00PM — 06:30PM

    Market features locally grown and organic produce, baked goods, bedding plants, herbs, candles an...


  • Sparx City Hop

    08/19/2017
    11:00AM — 06:00PM

    As patrons loop through neighborhoods on trolleys, tour guides will share interesting facts and p...


  • Wade Oval Wednesdays

    08/23/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Enjoy a FREE concert, food trucks, vendors, theme nights, and activities vary each week and are a...


  • Euclid Farmers' Market

    08/25/2017
    03:00PM — 06:30PM

    Market features locally grown and organic produce, baked goods, bedding plants, herbs, candles an...


  • Mentor City Fest

    08/25/2017
    04:00PM — 11:00PM

    Mentor's favorite family-friendly festival offers a full slate of entertainment, vendors, food, a...


  • Concerts and more at the Glen

    08/25/2017
    07:00PM — 08:30PM

    Bring a lawn chair or blanket. Bring a picnic to enjoy before the show. Snacks and beverages are ...


  • Mentor City Fest

    08/26/2017
    12:00PM — 11:00PM

    Mentor's favorite family-friendly festival offers a full slate of entertainment, vendors, food, a...


  • 9th Annual Cleveland Garlic Festival

    08/26/2017
    12:00PM — 09:00PM

    Featuring a celebrity chef competition, live music, kids area, parades and many more events and a...


  • Railroad Memorabilia Show

    08/27/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Collectors will show off their private collections of railroad related items like railroad signal...


  • 72nd One World Day Festival

    08/27/2017
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Featuring parade of flags, guided trolley tours, family activities, beer garden, naturalization c...


  • 9th Annual Cleveland Garlic Festival

    08/27/2017
    12:00PM — 06:00PM

    Featuring a celebrity chef competition, live music, kids area, parades and many more events and a...


  • Senior Safari

    08/30/2017
    10:00AM — 01:00PM

    Come out to Senior Safari Days where guests 62 and better get free admission to the Zoo. Tai Chi ...


  • Wade Oval Wednesdays

    08/30/2017
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Enjoy a FREE concert, food trucks, vendors, theme nights, and activities vary each week and are a...


  • Geauga County Fair

    08/31/2017
    09:00AM — 12:00AM

    Exhibits open daily at 10 am Rides open daily at noon Exhibits, animals, rides, music, foo...


  • Geauga County Fair

    09/01/2017
    09:00AM — 12:00AM

    Exhibits open daily at 10 am Rides open daily at noon Exhibits, animals, rides, music, foo...


  • Euclid Farmers' Market

    09/01/2017
    03:00PM — 06:30PM

    Market features locally grown and organic produce, baked goods, bedding plants, herbs, candles an...


  • Geauga County Fair

    09/02/2017
    09:00AM — 12:00AM

    Exhibits open daily at 10 am Rides open daily at noon Exhibits, animals, rides, music, foo...


  • Geauga County Fair

    09/03/2017
    09:00AM — 12:00AM

    Exhibits open daily at 10 am Rides open daily at noon Exhibits, animals, rides, music, food,...


  • Salute To Orange

    09/03/2017
    05:30PM

    Featuring entertainment, rocket car rides, fireworks, food & more.


  • Geauga County Fair

    09/04/2017
    09:00AM — 12:00AM

    Exhibits open daily at 10 am Rides open daily at noon Exhibits, animals, rides, music, food,...


  • Preschool Safari- Getting Around

    09/06/2017
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    Your little Zoo enthusiasts are sure to love these fun-filled programs designed for families with...