Ask the Expert: Autism

Q: There seems to be more attention being paid to Autism lately.  Can you tell us what you’ve seen in your practice?

Autism has been recognized for many years.  In my practice, it does seem that I’m seeing individuals with this disorder more frequently.  This seems to be the case for everyone who cares for children.  Estimates suggest that Autism occurs in approximately 1 in 150 children.  The reason for this isn’t clear.  There are many theories and much research is being done, but no one has been able to conclusively determine the cause.

Although there are many symptoms that we see in this disorder and each child is unique, some of the signs that might raise a concern are:

Difficulties with social interaction (not responding to their name or your smile; lack of eye contact, not seeking your approval)

Delayed speech or loss of speech (difficulty with communication)

Unusual, repetitive behaviors (rocking, head-banging, self-abusive behaviors)

Q. What should a parent do if they have concerns about this?

If a parent has questions about their child’s development, they should discuss these with their physician.  Developmental screening is an important part of every well child visit, particularly in the first several years.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently published a review of the Identification, Evaluation, and Management of Autism.  They have recommended that formal tools be used in screening at 18 and 24 months of age or any time a parent has a concern.

For more information on this, see Autism links on our website

The earlier Autism is identified, the better.  It is important to begin treatment as soon as possible as this appears to lead to a much better outcome.  Your doctor may recommend evaluation by specialists and, at the same time, refer you for treatment including speech, occupational, and developmental therapy.  It is also important for parents to be in touch with local resources and other parents with experience in dealing with this to give their child the best possible care.

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