YOUR FAMILY HEALTH
autism spectrum disorder and a new model for treatment
usan Hyman, MD, Chief of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital, recently spoke with us about Autism Spectrum Disorder, and a new model for treatment in Rochester.
HOW COMMON IS AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER? ARE RATES ON THE RISE? According to the 2014 report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects 1 in 68 children in the United States. While the prevalence appears to have stabilized, there has been a tremendous increase over the past 20 years. There are a number of reasons that may account for the increase. First, the definition of ASD has broadened to include higher-functioning and lower-functioning individuals – people with typical IQ might have previously been considered for other diagnoses or none at all. People with limited language might have been diagnosed only with intellectual disability (what we used to call mental retardation). We’ve also been more rigorous in attempting to identify children with ASD — screenings are now recommended at 18 months and 24 or 30 months in the
context of well child care — and there is a greater awareness among educators, therapists, and families of ASD, so they are more likely to report symptoms. As a result, we’ve been identifying more cases of ASD. This doesn’t rule out the possibility that there really is an increase in prevalence. But thus far, it’s been difficult to say this with any certainty, as we’re only now reaching a point in the U.S. where we are correctly identifying the vast majority of individuals who actually have ASD. WHAT CAUSES AUTISM? Current scientific understanding suggests that there is not just a singular cause for ASD. We know it has roots in the neurobiologic functions of the brain, with origins in early brain development, and that a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors are the leading causes of ASD. In short, the causes are complex and potentially numerous, and researchers
SUSAN HYMAN, MD, CHIEF OF THE DIVISION OF DEVELOPMENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL PEDIATRICS AT UR MEDICINE’S GOLISANO CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
are still working to identify all of the genes that play a role through the life span. However, if you are pregnant or attempting to become pregnant, the best recommendations are to eat healthful foods, get enough exercise, try not to gain more weight than is recommended by your health care provider, only take the medications and supplements recommended by your doctor or nurse, and minimize your stress.
of medicine, it is especially true for individuals with autism, as each case is unique. Interventions can involve behavioral treatments to address things such as the ability to communicate or focus, as well as feeding problems or trouble sleeping. Gastrointestinal problems are also common, as well as seizures or other behavioral disorders like ADHD. We address whatever challenges an individual or family is facing.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS? Treatment is tailored to the individual’s specific needs. While this is true in many disciplines
YOU’RE ON THE VERGE OF OPENING A NEW CLINIC FOR CHILDREN WITH ASD. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT
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