In the realm of healthcare, understanding the various specialists and their roles is crucial for patients and their families. One such specialist is a neurologist. For those seeking information about neurological conditions and treatments, particularly parents and caregivers involved with Chicago ABA Therapy, this article aims to provide a thorough understanding of what neurologists do, the conditions they treat, and how they can be of help to individuals with neurological disorders.

What is a Neurologist?

A neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the nervous system. This includes the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and muscles. Neurologists are highly trained professionals who undergo extensive education and training. After completing medical school, they must finish a residency in neurology, which typically lasts four years. Some neurologists also pursue additional fellowship training in a subspecialty area, such as epilepsy, neuromuscular diseases, or pediatric neurology.

The Nervous System Explained

To understand what neurologists do, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the nervous system. The nervous system is a complex network that controls and coordinates all bodily functions. It is divided into two main parts:

  1. Central Nervous System (CNS): Comprising the brain and spinal cord, the CNS is responsible for processing and sending out information.
  2. Peripheral Nervous System (PNS): This includes all the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. It connects the CNS to the rest of the body and is involved in transmitting signals to and from different body parts.

Conditions Treated by Neurologists

Neurologists treat a wide range of neurological disorders. Here are some common conditions they manage:


Epilepsy is a chronic disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. Neurologists diagnose epilepsy through clinical evaluation and tests such as EEG (electroencephalogram) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). They prescribe antiepileptic medications and, in some cases, recommend surgical interventions.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the CNS. Symptoms can vary widely and include fatigue, mobility issues, and cognitive changes. Neurologists manage MS with disease-modifying therapies and symptomatic treatments to improve quality of life.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder affecting movement. It is characterized by tremors, stiffness, and balance problems. Neurologists treat Parkinson’s disease with medications that increase dopamine levels in the brain and may also suggest surgical options like deep brain stimulation.

Migraines and Headaches

Chronic headaches and migraines can significantly impact daily life. Neurologists specialize in diagnosing the type of headache and providing treatment plans that include medications, lifestyle changes, and preventive therapies.


A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted, causing brain cells to die. Neurologists play a critical role in acute stroke management and rehabilitation. They work to minimize brain damage and help patients recover lost functions.


Neuropathy involves damage to peripheral nerves, leading to symptoms like pain, numbness, and weakness, typically in the hands and feet. Neurologists identify the underlying cause and provide treatments to manage symptoms and prevent further nerve damage.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

While neurologists do not directly treat ASD, they are often involved in the diagnostic process. They can help identify any neurological conditions that may co-occur with ASD, such as epilepsy or genetic disorders, and provide appropriate referrals and treatments.

The Diagnostic Process

Diagnosing neurological conditions can be complex and often involves multiple steps:

  1. Medical History and Physical Examination: The neurologist will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination to assess neurological function.
  2. Diagnostic Tests: Various tests may be ordered, including:
    • Imaging Studies: MRI, CT scans, and PET scans provide detailed images of the brain and spinal cord.
    • Electrodiagnostic Tests: EEG and EMG (electromyography) measure electrical activity in the brain and muscles.
    • Lumbar Puncture: Also known as a spinal tap, this test involves collecting cerebrospinal fluid for analysis.
  3. Blood Tests: These can help identify infections, metabolic conditions, or autoimmune disorders affecting the nervous system.
  4. Genetic Testing: In cases where a hereditary condition is suspected, genetic tests can provide valuable information.

Treatment and Management

Neurologists employ a variety of treatment modalities based on the specific condition and its severity. These include:


Many neurological conditions are managed with medications designed to control symptoms, slow disease progression, or address the underlying cause. For example, antiepileptic drugs for epilepsy, dopaminergic medications for Parkinson’s disease, and immunomodulatory treatments for multiple sclerosis.


Neurologists often collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care. This can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and cognitive rehabilitation. These therapies help patients regain lost functions and improve their quality of life.

Surgical Interventions

In certain cases, surgery may be necessary. Neurosurgeons, who work closely with neurologists, perform procedures such as removing brain tumors, treating aneurysms, or implanting devices like deep brain stimulators.

Lifestyle Modifications

Neurologists may recommend lifestyle changes to manage symptoms and improve overall health. This can include dietary adjustments, exercise programs, stress management techniques, and sleep hygiene practices.

When to See a Neurologist

It’s important to know when to seek the expertise of a neurologist. If you or a loved one experience any of the following symptoms, it may be time to consult a neurologist:

  • Persistent or severe headaches
  • Sudden changes in vision, speech, or balance
  • Chronic pain, numbness, or tingling
  • Seizures or unexplained episodes of confusion
  • Muscle weakness or difficulty walking
  • Memory loss or cognitive changes

Early diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve outcomes for many neurological conditions.

The Role of Neurologists in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

For families involved with Chicago ABA Therapy, understanding the neurologist’s role in the context of ASD is particularly important. While ASD is primarily managed by developmental pediatricians, psychologists, and behavioral therapists, neurologists can provide critical insights, especially when neurological symptoms are present.

Diagnosing Co-Occurring Conditions

Neurologists can help identify and treat neurological conditions that often co-occur with ASD, such as epilepsy or genetic disorders. They work as part of a multidisciplinary team to ensure comprehensive care for individuals with ASD.

Providing Referrals and Resources

Neurologists can refer patients to other specialists, such as geneticists, psychiatrists, or rehabilitation therapists, to address the full spectrum of needs. They also provide valuable resources and support to families navigating the complexities of ASD.


Neurologists play a vital role in diagnosing, treating, and managing a wide range of neurological conditions. Their expertise is essential for individuals experiencing symptoms related to the nervous system, including those with autism spectrum disorder. At Chicago ABA Therapy, we recognize the importance of a collaborative approach to care, involving neurologists and other specialists to ensure the best possible outcomes for our clients.

Understanding the role of a neurologist empowers patients and families to seek appropriate care and make informed decisions about their health. If you or a loved one are experiencing neurological symptoms, don’t hesitate to consult a neurologist for a comprehensive evaluation and tailored treatment plan.

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