By Maureen Barton, OTR/L
The word autism when mentioned in connection with your child can send an emotional torrent through the most steadfast parent. In the past few years the word has taken on new meanings and has been brought forth into the public interest with the recognition of an increasing rate of both identification and prevalence of autism and autism spectrum disorders. As rate of identification rises, services for those diagnosed with autism should rise correspondingly.
Who can make the diagnosis? According to the National Academy of Sciences, “the diagnosis of autism can be made reliably in 2-year-olds by professionals experienced in the diagnostic assessment of young children.” Early diagnosis is crucial because the earlier treatment starts, the better.
What exactly does autism mean? In the diagnostic manual used to classify disabilities, the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), “autistic disorder is listed as a category under the heading of ‘Pervasive Developmental Disorders.’ Autism and PDD-NOS are neurological disorders that affect a child’s ability to communicate, understand language, play and relate to others and adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.”
A diagnosis of autistic disorder is made when an individual displays six or more symptoms listed across three major areas: social interaction, communication and behavior. When children display similar behaviors but do not meet the criteria for autistic disorder, they may receive a diagnosis of PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified). Currently, researchers are investigating areas such as neurological damage and biochemical imbalance in the brain. Emotional neglect or psychological factors do not cause these disorders.
What specialists are involved with treatment of this disorder? Speech-language/learning Pathologists, Occupational therapists, and physicians create the ideal team to support the child with autism.
The fourth annual World Autism Awareness Day is this Saturday, April 2. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events. World Autism Awareness Day shines a bright light on autism as a growing global health crisis.
Here in Half Moon Bay, the Coastside Pediatric Therapy Center (CPTC), run by Maureen Barton, OTR/L and Claire Norton, MS, CCC, SLP, recognizes autism every day by advocating the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention. CPTC is a wonderful resource for parents and children living with autism and provides therapy services for children with diagnoses of autism, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, and prematurity as well as those children who demonstrate speech or language delays, feeding problems, motor planning and motor development problems, hyperactivity.
For more information about the Coastside Pediatric Therapy Center, located at 255 Main Street, Half Moon Bay, call 560-9471 or e-mail Maureen Barton, OTR/L at firstname.lastname@example.org.