Pubblicato il 14/06/2022

What it is

Autism is a clinical condition originating from a biologically determined neurodevelopmental disorder, with persistence throughout life, although in forms of different severity. It appears in the first three years of life and is characterised by an inability to interact with people and the environment. These children lack the capacity for exchange, reciprocity and communicative intentionality.


Autism manifests itself with a wide range of clinical presentations, different levels of severity and various associated comorbidities, all of which account for the heterogeneity of symptoms and hence the term "Autistic Spectrum Disorders". The most frequently associated comorbidities are represented by: intellectual disability, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sleep disorders, food selectivity, tics and neurological conditions with a preponderance of Epilepsy; psychiatric pathologies in the form of anxiety and depression even in cases with a higher level of functioning.

The causes

The causes of Autism are not well known in most cases, despite intensive research over the last few decades. A multifactorial genesis of the disorder is suggested, with a possible predominant role of genetic factors acting in the early stages of brain maturation and development, for example in the synaptogenetic field, as reported in a wide range of scientific literature.


The diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorders is clinical and is based, in addition to an accurate anamnesis, on a neuro-behavioural assessment based on observation of the child both in a free and structured situation, in order to analyse communication and social skills. Diagnostic activity on the aetiological side (study of biological causes and medical comorbidities) is based on a careful neurological examination of the child, laboratory and instrumental tests, the main ones being hearing tests, genetic tests, electroencephalogram and, if necessary, magnetic resonance imaging.

Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) represent a "chronic" condition even if subject to evolution and modifications linked to the emergence/improvement of social, communicative-linguistic and adaptive skills, also favoured by the start of a cognitive-behavioural educational rehabilitation intervention. The long-term aim of a therapeutic project is, in fact, to promote a better quality of life for the patient and his entire family unit. An early diagnosis of ASD appears to be of considerable value in view of the presence of high neuronal plasticity during the early stages of development, which, together with significant daily life experiences and intervention in all life contexts, favours changes in behaviour, skills and personal autonomy.


Most treatments are based on ABA, Applied Behaviour Analysis, intervention models. These programmes use strategies derived from the principles of learning to teach functional skills and reduce problematic behaviour, although there is a fair degree of variability in terms of intensity, duration, targets set and where the intervention is applied (outpatient, family, school, centres).

Within this Autistic Spectrum Disorders Operative Unit, the treatments carried out (according to ABA strategies) are divided into Parent Coaching, a personalised outpatient ABA pathway, periodic meetings with the school and family, and groups for teaching Social Skills and/or Autonomy.

What we do at ISNB for Autism

  • diagnosis, clinical and neurobehavioural assessment
  • laboratory and instrumental examinations (EEG, brain MRI, genetic analysis, etc.)
  • Administration of drug therapies for comorbidities
  • Co-ordination and verification of psycho-educational and rehabilitation activities according to cognitive-behavioural strategies.
  • Coordination of the PDTA Autism activity in the City of Bologna.
  • Maintaining close contact with the local NPI services in the city, both as a first filter for families of children with suspected ASD and for taking care of them after diagnosis.

The service is over-specialised. Therefore, a request must be made by the local child neuropsychiatrist or free-choice paediatrician, the latter only for the 0-36 month age group.



Bellaria Hospital Switchboard: 051-622.51.
11Day Hospital, Day Service, Outpatient Departments: 051-496.61.59


Inpatient area

IRCCS Istituto delle Scienze NeurologichePadiglione
G of the Bellaria Hospitalvia
Altura 3, Bologna

Outpatient area

IRCCS Istituto delle Scienze NeurologichePadiglione
F of the Bellaria Hospital
(access from the Entrance Pavilion)
via Altura 3, Bologna

Headquarters Corte Roncati
Gardener's House
Viale Pepoli

centre asd@ausl.bologna.it (for professionals)

infoasd@ausl.bologna.it (for families)

The team

Child Neuropsychiatrists 

Paola Visconti, Child Neuropsychiatrist, Head of the Autistic Spectrum Disorders Unit
Sara Bianchi, Child Neuropsychiatrist
Laura Maria Ceteroni, Child Neuropsychiatrist
Annio Posar, Child Neuropsychiatrist (Unibo Researcher)
Maria Cristina Scaduto, Child Neuropsychiatry


Giulia Baratella
Maria Cristina Cutrone
Federica Resca
Vincenza Blunda
Ilaria Casari
Chiara Mazzoni

Nursing staff

Day Hospital, Day Service, Outpatient Coordinator: Micaela Burzi
Ordinary Hospital Coordinator: Patrizia Capelli

The operational units of reference

UOSI Autistic Spectrum Disorders


In 2014, the ISNB obtained ministerial funding of €382,000 for a research project that made it possible, for the first time in Italy, to set up a database of 100 Italian families with one or more autistic children to study possible relations between genetic alterations and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

All ISNB doctors are also researchers and research never stops. You can decide to support the Research of the IRCCS Istituto delle Scienze Neurologiche di Bologna with your 5x1000. For more information click here. Thank you!