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What is an Autism Spectrum/Pervasive Developmental Disorder?

Pervasive Developmental Disorder is a broad diagnostic category that includes what are commonly referred to as "Autism Spectrum Disorders". Diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum include: Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD, NOS). A child is typically referred to us when he or she is not developing language in a typical manner, when having difficulty with social interactions, and when displaying repetitive behaviors. Autism Spectrum Disorders are lifelong neurodevelopmental disorders that affect the way a child develops and interacts with his/her environment. For further information about Autism Spectrum Disorders, please visit the web links listed on this site.

What services are available at the Autism Clinic?
Faculty and staff at the UAB Civitan-Sparks Clinics offer a range of services focused on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to individuals, families, school personnel, and the community.

Clinic-Based Services

  • Diagnostic Evaluations:  Children are evaluated by psychologists who have been trained in the administration and interpretation of gold-standard assessment instruments, including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), as well as age-appropriate checklists to confirm or rule-out an ASD diagnosis.  Children from 1 to 16 years of age are evaluated in the context of an interdisciplinary evaluation.  A parent feedback session and a report summarizing assessment results, interpretation, and recommendations for home, school, and community environments are provided to the caregivers of the child following the evaluation.
  • Outpatient Therapy:  Individual and family-based programming is available for children from toddlers to young adolescence with a diagnosis of ASD.  Interventions are evidence-based and utilize the principles of applied behavior analysis, a developmental perspective, and visual structures and support.  All interventions emphasize increasing independence, communication, social interaction, and community participation.
  • Social Skills Groups:  Groups focusing on specific content areas will be conducted on a revolving basis, with the topics of the groups varying according to the age/developmental level of group participants and the identified needs of the individuals.  The PEERS curriculum, which was developed at UCLA and has been supported as an evidence-based intervention, will be offered beginning Fall 2010.

Community-Based Services

  • School-based Consultation/Independent Evaluation: School consultations may be conducted as a follow-up to evaluation and diagnosis by request of the caregivers or may be initiated through contracts with individual schools or systems.  School consultations address specific issues in the school setting and typically involve interviews with caregivers, teachers, and with the student as well as behavioral observations in the classroom, culminating in comprehensive summary reports with detailed recommendations.
  • Inservice Training/Presentations: Presentations and workshops are developed based on the needs of the organization and audience.  Topics include but are not limited to the following:  Overview of evidence-based interventions for ASD; Classroom strategies for individuals with ASD; Early recognition of ASD; Facilitating social skills development; Parent support; Peer education; and Behavior management.

What type of evaluation is offered?
Because every child is different and there are varying degrees of symptom presentation, a thorough evaluation by experienced practitioners is recommended. Diagnostic evaluations at the Autism Clinic are comprehensive in nature, and include state-of-the-art measures. This evaluation includes both an extensive interview of the child's primary caregivers (Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised), and a structured interaction with the child (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-General). In addition, due to preferences of the local school systems, the Childhood Autism Rating Scale is completed. Additional measures may be used as determined necessary during the clinic visit.

In addition to the autism specific measures, a Developmental Pediatrician may participate in the evaluation.  This physician interviews each family and examines each child.  Additional medical testing may be recommended.

Generally, children who are seen through the Autism Clinic also have a complete developmental evaluation either through their current providers or through one of the other clinics at Civitan-Sparks Clinics. Information from Audiology, Optometry, Speech/Language, Occupational Therapy, Social Work, Psychology (including cognitive testing) is integrated with findings from the Autism Clinic in making a final diagnosis.

Families are given both verbal and written feedback regarding diagnosis and resources for developing a comprehensive treatment program. Referrals are made, as needed, for further evaluation or for treatments.

Who will we see at the Autism Clinic?
A range of professionals at the Sparks Clinics work with children and families at the Sparks Clinics.

Trainees from several disciplines, including Psychology, Pediatrics, and Speech/Language Pathology, are active participants in evaluations in the Autism Clinic.  Clinicians in the Autism Clinic have faculty appointments in the Departments of Psychology or Pediatrics and provide supervision for evaluation and intervention activities.  The ASD Training Team at Sparks also provides inservice training for community-based organizations, including schools, as well as preservice training in ASD for all interdisciplinary trainees at the Sparks Clinics.

Community/Networking Activities
Clinicians from the Autism Clinic participate in a number of local and statewide committees and organizations that seek to improve services for individuals with ASD, including the Alabama Interagency Autism Coordinating Council, the Alabama Autism Providers Network, and UAB CARES (Collaboration for Autism Research, Education and Service).  We are committed to volunteering our time to promote systems change for individuals with developmental disabilities, including ASD.


Appointment Contact Information
For most services, families or referral sources can contact the Autism Clinic by calling one of the Civitan-Sparks main numbers below.

For more information about community-based services and/or social skills groups, please contact Dr. Sarah O'Kelley at sokelley@uab.edu or 205-934-5471.

Phone Numbers

Birmingham Metro local number 205-934-5471
Toll-free long distance 1-800-822-2472 (choose option "8" Civitan-Sparks Clinics)

Street Address

Community Health Services Building
930 20th Street South
Birmingham, AL 35294-2041

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