Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Norton Children’s board-certified and fellowship-trained neurologists are the leading providers of autism care in Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

Norton Children’s Hospital is the pediatric teaching hospital for the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Our physicians have expertise in their fields and are training the next generation of pediatric specialists.

We’ll determine the severity of your child’s autism and create a treatment plan that minimizes risk, so your child can get back to being a kid.

What is autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), affects social and behavioral development in children. People with autism may communicate and behave in ways that are different from other people. It can affect the way they learn, think and solve problems.

Signs of autism

Early signs may include not showing interest in or pointing at objects when expected, avoiding eye contact, preferring to be alone or having difficulty relating to other people. It also may include repeating phrases or words that are said to them, not playing “pretend” games or demonstrating use of imagination, repeating actions over and over again, having reactions to certain textures, smells or appearances, or losing skills that they had previously learned.

People with autism may demonstrate repetitive movements called stereotypies (hand flapping, rocking, head banging) and toe walking. There is an increased risk for seizures and epilepsy in children with ASD.

While the cause remains unknown, children with a sibling diagnosed with autism or children with certain genetic conditions such as fragile X syndrome are more likely to develop autism. Exposure to certain medications during pregnancy can increase risk.

Autism diagnosis

Our physicians may make a diagnosis based on an examination of your child’s development and behavior. There are no blood tests that can make a diagnosis of ASD, which can be made around age 2. A psychologist or neuropsychologist can perform formal testing to evaluate specific ways in which your child thinks, learns and is developing, which can be helpful.

If members of our team suspect your child has had seizures, ordering an electroencephalography (EEG) may be helpful. Sometimes, a team member may recommend genetic testing (determined via a blood test), especially if there is a strong family history of autism.

Autism treatment

There is no cure, but your child can gain through early intervention with therapies, which research has shown to been beneficial. These therapies work to improve speech and communication, social interactions and motor skills. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that before age 3 your child can receive services through early intervention programs. The public school system provides those services after age 3.

Meet the Team

Vinay Puri, M.D.

Gregory Barnes, M.D.

Elizabeth Doll, M.D.

Darren Farber, M.D.

Arpita Lakhotia, M.D.

David Lohr, M.D.

Debra O’Donnell, M.D.

Michael Sweeney, M.D.

Gail Williams, M.D.

Occupational and speech therapy

Amber Devine-Stinson, speech language pathologist

Liz Grant, occupational therapist

Katherine Majot, occupational therapist

Brittany Mills, speech language pathologist

Jocelyn Warren, occupational therapist


Amanda Ables, psychologist

Lily Cooksey, psychologist

Grace Kuravackel, psychologist

Melissa Wheatley, licensed psychological practitioner

Applied behavior analysis

Erick Dubuque, behavior analyst

Molly Dubuque, behavior analyst


Contact Us

Connect to the Norton Children’s Hospital Neurology team
(502) 588-3650

Connect with Norton Children’s Neurosurgery
(502) 583-1697

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