Care at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

Our ASD specialists understand that each person with this disorder is different. We use the latest treatments and determine which ones are right for each individual.

Psychotherapy

A number of treatments work well for people who have ASD. The care team at Penn State Health may use:

  • Applied behavioral analysis (ABA). This encourages positive behaviors and discourages negative ones.
  • Social skills training groups. These help children with ASD learn social skills from their peers who do not have this condition.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This targets symptoms that can occur along with ASD, such as anxiety or depression.

Medicines

At this time, there is no drug that treats the core problems of ASD. However, some medicines can help people manage the disorders that often occur along with ASD.

Two drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat irritability and aggression in children and adults with ASD. They are:

  • Risperidone (Risperdal)
  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)

Special programs

Penn State Health has special programs that treat autism spectrum disorder. These include:

  • Social skills groups for teens and young adults with ASD
  • A program designed to help people with ASD who are moving into adulthood
  • Outpatient therapy for people with ASD who also have anxiety or depression
  • A medication management program to treat anxiety, depression, sleep problems, aggression or other behavior problems that can occur along with ASD
  • Assessments for people who think they may have ASD but have not yet been diagnosed.
  • Mental health assessments for people with ASD

People with ASD can also get help through one of our specialized research programs.

These include:

  • Group therapy for social skills from early to middle adolescence
  • Group therapy for social skills from late adolescence to early adulthood
  • Individualized program for adolescents to help them transition to adulthood

Groups, Classes & Support

People with ASD and their families can find help and support through the Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training (ASERT) Center. Hershey Medical Center is the ASERT Center for our region. Funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Bureau of Autism Service, ASERT provides a statewide resource center staffed by regional specialists.

ASERT can connect you with support groups in your area as well as online and in community trainings. Visit ASERT at www.paautism.org. You can also contact ASERT Central Resource and Communications Specialist Andrea Layton at alayton@paautism.org.

You can read up-to-date information about ASD in the ASERT Resource Center’s monthly newsletter and learn about resources for teens and adults with ASD from ASDNext

Research & Clinical Trials

We have an active clinical science research program, and we frequently seek volunteers to participate in clinical trials. These studies help our scientists improve diagnostic techniques, develop better treatments, and collaborate with other researchers.

To see all clinical trials and learn how to volunteer, visit StudyFinder

Symptoms, Diagnosis & Outlook

People with ASD have trouble with social interactions and communication. Their interests may be very limited. They may also show repeated patterns of behavior and activities.

ASD symptoms often start in early childhood. However, they may also appear later. For example:

  • Children with severe ASD may be diagnosed as early as 12 to 18 months of age.
  • Children with milder ASD may not show major symptoms until early in their teen years.
  • Some people with ASD are not diagnosed until they are adults. They have often been diagnosed first with other mental health conditions.

ASD has risen steadily over the past few decades. The CDC estimates that about one in 68 children in the U.S. has this disorder. This increase is due in part to greater awareness of ASD and also how it is diagnosed.

It’s not clear what causes ASD. Most scientists agree that it has more than one cause and both genes and environment play a role. Although there are claims that vaccines can cause ASD, no scientific studies have linked ASD and vaccines.

We can help

Call our Hershey Medical Center outpatient clinic at 717-531-8338 for more information or to make an appointment.

In Harrisburg, call the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute at 866-746-2496 or 717-782-6493.