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The Right Connection - Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Click on each title below to see detailed information.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.  People with ASD handle information in their brains differently than other people. ASD is a “spectrum disorder” that affects each person in different ways, and which can range from very mild to severe.  People with ASD share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction, but there are differences in when the symptoms start, how severe they are, and the exact nature of the symptoms. (CDC, 2012)

Diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorder. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.  ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger.  BY age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable.  However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older.  This delay means that children with an ASD might not get the help they need.

If you suspect that your child has an autistic disorder, the first thing to do is discuss it with the child's primary healthcare provider, whether it's your family practice doctor or pediatrician. If a child has one or more of the following symptoms, consider asking a doctor to evaluate the child for possible autism:


  • Repetitive behaviors
  •  Obsessive interest in certain things
  • Avoidance of eye contact with people
  • Repetitive rocking, twirling, etc.

As a baby:

  • Unresponsive to people
  • Tendency to focus on one item for a long period of time
  • Low sensitivity to pain
  • High sensitivity to sound, touch, etc.
  • Resistance to being touched (especially to being hugged)

 As an infant/toddler:

  • Slow to start speaking
  • Refers to themself by the name “me” or “I”
  • Flaps hands, rocks body, or other unusual body movements

 By one year old:

  • Not responding to their name
  • Lack of happy expressions
  • Lack of babbling
  • Problems establishing eye contact
  • Staring for a long time at items which aren’t moving

As a child:

  • Difficulty making friends
  • Difficulty starting or carrying on conversations
  • Lack of imaginative play, "pretend games"
  • Unusual and/or repetitive use of language
  • Difficulties with social interactions
  • Difficulties with communication (verbal and nonverbal)
  • Desire to adhere to certain routines
  • Failure to respond to their name
  • Difficulties determining what others think or feel
  • Difficulties interpreting social cues (e.g., tone of voice, facial expressions)
  • Lack of empathy
  • Self-abusive actions (e.g., biting, head-banging)
  • Difficulties playing with other children
  • Speaking in a singing voice
  • Often speaks about the same topics over and over again

Preliminary screening for autism can be completed online at: https://appdev.mccmh.net/Autism/index.asp or by calling the MCCMH Access Center, (586) 948-0222.

There is currently no cure for ASD. However research shows that early intervention treatment services can greatly improve a child’s development.  Early intervention services help children from birth to 3 years old (36 months) learn important skills.  Services can include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others.  Therefore, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child has an ASD or other developmental problem.

The National Autism Center completed a National Standards Project that identifies established, emerging and disproven therapies for the treatment of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The National Standards Phase 2 report can be found at: https://nationalautismcenter.org/national-standards/

Private Insurance

Information on what services are paid for by private insurance for a child who is suspected of having ASD or has been diagnosed with ASD can be found by contacting the insurance carrier.

In October 2012, legislation passed requiring specific private insurance plans to cover Diagnostic and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for individuals with ASD from birth through 18 years of age.

For-profit, commercial, HMO, and non-profit health insurance companies regulated by the state of Michigan are mandated to provide an autism benefit to its insured members covering services related to the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) through 18 years of age.

Medicaid/MIChild/Healthly Michigan

Screening, diagnosis, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services are covered for children with Medicaid, MIChild or Healthy Michigan insurance up to the age of 21.  Specific information on what services are paid for by Medicaid or MIChild are posted online at:   http://www.michigan.gov/autism/0,4848,7-294-63682---,00.html

Services may be accessed by calling the Macomb County Community Mental Health Access Center in the child’s county of residence.  The Macomb County CMH Access telephone number is: (586) 948-0222.

Acute psychiatric care for youth aged 4 - 17 with autism spectrum disorder and a severe physical, psychological or behavioral issue(s). The typical length of stay is 2 - 4 weeks but depends on severity of symptoms and response to treatment. Services include the expertise of a child psychiatrist, social worker, medical doctor, behavioral health clinician and registered behavior technicians, Board Certified Behavioral Analyst and nurse practitioner to achieve stabilization of behaviors which prevent functioning in the community and decreasing problematic behaviors in combination with evaluating the need for psychotropic medications. Services include: intensive group therapy, activity therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, vision exam and audiology service if needed, educational services, and coordination with aftercare services. Family participation is encourage. All insurances accepted. For more information or to refer a youth, call Harbor Oaks Hospital Specialized Inpatient Pediatric Unit, (586) 725-5777.

A social network for parents of kids with autism including the following features/tabs: Activity, find parents, provider directory, Q&A and Pinboard.  https://www.myautismteam.com/

Monthly membership in a center offering unlimited access during regular hours to a family-friendly facility for children with autism or special needs (all ages, all diagnoses, all cognitive levels) is available from Play Place Autism and Special Needs Center, (586) 254-6533 (Sterling Heights). 

A fitness center designed for children and adults with special needs combines education and empathy in a fitness programs designed to meet the specific needs of the child or adult.  Available from Inclusively Fit, Sterling Heights.  Contact mark@inclusivelyfit.com or call (586) 850-5004.

A club for teens with Asperger including movies, video games, board games, ping pong, basketball, talent show, dancing. Refreshments available. The group is open to the community and is called the ASD Friendship Club, located at Trinity Lutheran Church, Clinton Township, 48036 (parking is in the back). The club meets on the second Saturday of the month from 7:00-11:00pm from October-June.  Persons under age 18 must have a caretaker with them.  The cost is $7.00.  For more information, go to https://macombasdsocial.weebly.com or on Facebook at Teen Asperger Friendship Club.

A dedicated fund to assist military families to provide financial assistance to military families to help defray out-of-pocket costs associated with autism treatments and other quality of life programs. Available from ACT Today! (Autism Care and Treatment Today!) for military families, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to raise awareness and provide treatment services to families that cannot afford the treatments and services their children require.  For more information, go to: