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Business Structure Evaluation Process Updates

We're currently conducting an evaluation of Lee Health's business structure. Explore all available documents and dive deeper into the process by learning more here. Lee Health’s Board of Directors invites you to a public hearing, set for Thursday, April 25th in the Community Room at Gulf Coast Medical Center, to discuss the ongoing evaluation of converting the health system to a community-focused nonprofit structure. Learn more details here.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder? 

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction, and restricted/repetitive behavior. Children are usually diagnosed with ASD during the first few years of childhood but they can be diagnosed later in life. Autism is a lifelong condition and the severity of symptoms can differ, however many diagnosed children go on to live completely independent lives. 

A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. We are unsure of the causes of autism but genetic and environmental factors are expected to play a big role. 

Signs and Symptoms of ASD

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can look different in different children. Some children who are on the spectrum start showing signs as young as a few months old. Pay attention to milestones your child may be missing or if you are seeing delays. Some signs and symptoms to look for are: 


  • Delayed speech and language skills
  • Flat, robotic speaking voice, or singsong voice
  • Echolalia (repeating the same phrase over and over)
  • Problems with pronouns (saying “you” instead of “I,” for example)
  • Not using or rarely using common gestures (pointing or waving), and not responding to them
  • Inability to stay on topic when talking or answering questions
  • Not recognizing sarcasm or joking

Social Interaction:

  • They don't respond to their name by their first birthday.
  • Playing, sharing, or talking with other people doesn't interest them.
  • They prefer to be alone.
  • They avoid or reject physical contact.
  • They avoid eye contact.
  • When they’re upset, they don’t like to be comforted.
  • They don’t understand emotions -- their own or others’.
  • They may not stretch out their arms to be picked up or guided with walking.


  • Repetitive behaviors like hand-flapping, rocking, jumping, or twirling
  • Constant moving (pacing) and “hyper” behavior
  • Fixations on certain activities or objects
  • Specific routines or rituals (and getting upset when a routine is changed, even slightly)
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch, light, and sound
  • Not taking part in “make-believe” play or imitating others’ behaviors
  • Fussy eating habits
  • Lack of coordination, clumsiness
  • Impulsiveness (acting without thinking)
  • Aggressive behavior, both with self and others
  • Short attention span


There is currently no cure for ASD, but there are ways to manage it. Treatment for ASD should begin as soon as possible after diagnosis. Early treatment for ASD is important as proper care can reduce individuals’ difficulties while helping them learn new skills and make the most of their strengths.

Your child development specialist will be to help find the right treatment program for your child. Some children benefit from medications and while others from behavioral, psychological, and educational therapy. These therapies can help your child talk, walk, and interact better with others. 

If you think your child might have ASD or you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts, contact your child’s doctor, and share your concerns.

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Autism Certified Care Options at Lee Health

    Lee Health's Golisano Children's Hospital is proud to be certified as an Autism-friendly hospital.

  • Son running to mother

    Autism Navigator

    The autism navigator guides families through the complex system of care. Beginning with the diagnosis by their treating physician, the navigator provides case management, follow-up and support to families. Learn more here!