Autism Specialist

Richard G. Merkler, MD, FAAP -  - Pediatrician

Richard G. Merkler, MD, FAAP

Pediatrician located in Midtown West, New York, NY

Richard Merkler, MD, FAAP, monitors for signs and symptoms of autism through early well-child visits at his practice in Midtown West in Manhattan, New York City. When signs of autism are present, Dr. Merkler initiates further diagnosis, testing, and ongoing treatment of the disorder.

Autism Q&A

What is ASD?

Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, refers to a group of disorders that affect an individual’s brain development, and consequently their social interaction, communication, and behavior. Additionally, some of the disorders classified as ASD impact cognitive ability, motor coordination, attention, sleep, and bowel movements. Many children with autism or autism spectrum disorder display remarkable ability in a hyperfocused area, such as math or music.

Which disorders are included in the spectrum?

Disorders that fall under the ASD umbrella include:

  • Classic autism
  • Rett syndrome
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder
  • Pervasive developmental disorder
  • Asperger syndrome

How common is autism?

The prevalence of autism has increased tenfold in the last 40 years. Today, as many as 1 in 68 children are “on the spectrum,” or diagnosed with some level of autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, autism affects 4 times more boys than girls.

What are the causes of autism?

Research shows that autism is caused by a combination of environmental factors and genetic risk. This means that children who are at risk of autism genetically may be at higher risk when also exposed to certain environmental factors, including:

  • Advanced age of both mother and father at conception
  • Maternal illness sometime during the course of pregnancy
  • Difficulties during birth, including prematurity, low birth weight, and oxygen deprivation
  • Exposure to pesticides or pollution during gestation

Research is still ongoing and other factors are being studied further.

What are the signs of ASD?

Signs and symptoms of autism are present by 12 months about half the time, and noticeable by 24 months as much as 90% of the time. Most common signs include:

  • Not responding to his or her name by age 1
  • Uninterested in playing or talking with others
  • Avoiding affectionate or physical contact
  • Rejecting comforting when upset
  • Struggling to understand feelings and emotions
  • Lacking of or delayed speech
  • Monotone voice
  • Use of repetitive phrases
  • Not using or responding to hand gestures (waving, for example)
  • Aversion to foods; picky eater
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Constant movement
  • Very particular and predictable routines
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, or touch
  • Clumsiness

Some children display very subtle signs while other children’s signs may be much more noticeable or inhibiting. Parents who suspect ASD for any reason should schedule an appointment with their pediatrician.


We accept the majority of health insurance plans. Please contact our office if you do not see yours listed or have any other questions.

1199 National Benefit Fund
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield
Great West
Oscar Health Insurance Co.
Oxford United Healthcare
United Healthcare