How RWJBarnabas Health And The Children’s Specialized Hospital Autism Center Of Excellence Are Helping Families


If you’re wondering about the signs of autism or your child has a diagnosis, RWJBarnabas Health is here to help your child and family. Thanks to their Children’s Specialized Hospital Autism Center of Excellence, parents can be assured that they and their child will be supported throughout diagnosis, treatment, and care from childhood to adulthood. We sat down with Dr. Malia Beckwith, AVP of Ambulatory Medical Practices and Section Chief of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at Children’s Specialized Hospital, to talk about how families can find top-notch support, research, and care throughout their experience at CSH. (featured photo credit: istock/krisda Bisalyaputra)

Malia RWJ

Dr. Malia Beckwith, AVP of Ambulatory Medical Practices and Section Chief of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at Children’s Specialized Hospital. Credit: RWJBarnabas Health

What are the signs of autism, and at what age can they typically be seen?

The behavioral signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may present very early in development. Children often show symptoms at 12-18 months of age. The presentation is unique to each patient but will include deficits in social communication and social interaction and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. Typical early signs include problems with eye contact, no response to name, problems following another person’s gaze or pointed finger to an object (or “joint attention”), poor pretend play and imitation skills, and difficulties with nonverbal communication.

What does the CSH Autism Center of Excellence offer to diagnose and support children?

CSH Autism Center of Excellence offers a variety of diagnostic processes. Based on DSM-5 criteria, a diagnosis of autism can be made by an experienced medical practitioner. However, there are times when the medical provider will refer the child for additional testing (ADOS, ADI-R, cognitive assessment) or a Multidisciplinary Team Assessment. It is so important to have access to different assessment processes to meet each child and family’s needs.

The Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician (DBP) or Developmental Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) remains connected to a patient after diagnosis to support parents in determining their child’s service needs. Through CSH, patients can obtain Speech, Occupational, Physical, and Behavioral Therapies (both group and individual). Services of additional medical specialties, such as Psychiatry or Physiatry, may be recommended. Finally, families may access the support of our Special Needs Primary Care, staffed by pediatricians with additional expertise in the care of individuals with autism spectrum disorder.    

What makes the CSH Autism Center of Excellence stand out?

The mission at CSH Autism Center of Excellence is to support fulfilling lives for autistic individuals and their families.  The Center recognizes that support for the individual and family is needed across multiple domains, and this comprehensive approach makes it distinctive in treating autistic individuals. The four areas we emphasize are:

  • Service—We recognize the importance of clinical innovation in improving early identification and access to a variety of evidence-based autism therapies.
  • Training—We strive to educate the world on the needs and strengths of individuals with autism and to improve access to and quality of support throughout the community. 
  • Advocacy—We appreciate neurodiversity and support autistic individuals in pursuing social, health care, and educational equity. We also recognize the critical role of social determinants in an individual’s health.
  • Research—We are dedicated to the scientific exploration required to understand better and effectively support individuals with autism.

What can families expect during treatment?

Since every individual with autism is unique and presents their own strengths and challenges, the journey for each family will be unique. Families can expect a consistent dedication across all CSH Autism Center of Excellence staff and services to support them in this journey. They will work on setting goals that align with the family and an individual’s sense of purpose, build upon their strengths, and empower access to resources. This strength and purpose-based approach will be felt in each therapy session, medical appointment, or phone call, and families can be assured that the experience remains a positive and therapeutic environment for all. 

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This post is sponsored by RWJBarnabas Health. 


About Author

Melanie Bodner has always had a love for writing, but now she has a new love…being a mom. Before having her kids, Melanie was no stranger to writing or working with children. She wrote for a local newspaper as a reporter and taught English and Dance in a public school. Now Melanie enjoys spending time with her kids, doing yoga, writing and decorating her home. Check out her Instagram @burlapbythebeach.