Monday, April 29th, 2013
As Autism Awareness Month is coming to a close, it’s important to remind parents why they need to be aware of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
ASD is no longer a rare disorder. The estimated rate keeps rising. Parents need to be aware of the most telling signs in order to promote early recognition in their kids – and also provide a platform for understanding why a pediatrician may broach the subject.
Such early recognition is essential because early intervention can make a huge difference for a child with ASD. New interventions hold particular promise. While intervention at any time is beneficial, it’s clear that the earlier it starts, the more effective it may be.
Even if ASD hasn’t touched your life directly, it’s still important to know something about it. ASD has become, in a way, like cancer – it seems like we all know someone with cancer. You may have a friend who will have a child diagnosed with ASD in the next few years. Your kid may become friends with someone who has a sibling with ASD. Your kid may become friends with a child who has ASD.
Here are a few good links to follow to learn more about ASD:
National Institute of Mental Health
Child Mind Institute
Autism Awareness via Shutterstock.com
Add a Comment
ASD, autism, Autism Awareness, Autism Speaks, autism spectrum disorder, child mind institute, Health, Kids Health, National Institute of Mental Health | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Red-Hot Parenting
Friday, August 31st, 2012
Last week, an essay was published in the New York Times describing the hypothesis that one of the causes of autism involves a dysfunction in the immune system. In this opinion piece, autism was described as an inflammatory disease that starts during gestation (in the womb). The author speculated that 1 in 3 cases of autism may be due to mechanisms relating to problems with the immune system.
This line of research is certainly being pursued. Autism Speaks, for example, published a news report in response to the opinion piece, in which they discussed how they have, and continue, to support research that examines the role of the immune system as one of the pathways that may influence the development of autism. That said, they make two very important points:
1) Researchers disagree on the extent to which immune system dysfunction actually is a cause of autism – it may be that the immune system responds to brain and developmental changes that are due to other causes
2) There is currently no evidence that treatments for autism that are rooted in treating an immune system dysfunction are effective – though some are under study
I would add the following:
3) There is no definitive evidence that 1 in 3 cases in autism is due to immune system dysfunction, and as of now there are no diagnostic tests that would screen for this with precision
It’s important that science gets discussed in the popular press, and that parents have an opportunity to become informed on the latest thinking and research. However, opinion pieces – like the one in the New York Times – should (in my own opinion) present a more balanced viewpoint that accurately assesses the landscape (including divergent or more tempered opinions) and the real implications for parents right now. Without that, parents who read these pieces may come away with take-home messages that are not really accurate.
Having a child who has been diagnosed with autism changes a parent’s life. Theories come and theories go – and the realities of the difficulty in elucidating the causes of autism persist. When introducing relatively new ideas into the mainstream, I would hope that authors would exercise more caution with their viewpoints, and understand that, in the end, parents just want to know where things really stand – with more grounding and less hyperbole.
Immune system background via Shutterstock.com
Add a Comment
autism, Autism and the Immune System, Autism Speaks, Health, Immunity and Autism, New York Times, What Causes Autism | Categories:
Behavior, Health, Intervention, Must Read, Parenting, Questions, Red-Hot Parenting, Stories
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Last week a review paper published in Pediatrics suggested that there is insufficient evidence to support routine screening for autism in toddlers. While this paper — which is a conceptual piece based on literature review and not a scientific study per se — points out a number of legitimate challenges in screening for autism, the conclusion goes against the current tide of thinking which emphasizes the importance of early identification, particularly in toddlerhood. As such, my impression is that the conclusion of this paper moves our thinking backward, rather than forward.
One of the biggest changes in parenting advice in recent years has been shifting from the “wait and see” approach to “learn the signs and act early.” The idea is to help parents learn about the most important developmental milestones and to be aware of potential signals of problem areas — so that they can work with their pediatrician to track development and determine if and when intervention would be productive. Why? Simply put, early intervention is more likely to have the most pronounced long-term effects on development.
One of the most exciting areas of research on autism focuses on testing new methods for early identification and intervention. The organization Autism Speaks — which supports all kinds of cutting-edge science — nicely summarizes the idea that we should be promoting more screening and improvements in that process rather than less screening, especially as recent studies demonstrate the potential for early intervention to have meaningful effects on development.
As a scientist, I understand that we need to bring a critical eye to our current knowledge base and practices. That said, I also appreciate that we have a public service to not only maintain momentum in research and practice, but to accelerate it when we are talking about developmental disorders such as autism. Discouraging screening for autism runs contrary to the mission of keeping parents as informed as possible about their children’s development, and also could inhibit the critical partnership between parents and pediatricians.
It is certainly true that the current screening for autism is far from an exact science. And I agree that any efforts to improve this process should be a priority for research and clinical practice. But the reality is that we need to serve parents today as we continue to improve our future efforts. Let’s keep moving forward.
Add a Comment