HEALTH: Early intervention is important in the treatment of autism
There is no doubt that most people are more informed about autism than they were as recently as a couple of decades ago. But there still things about the developmental disorder that people don't know and that's one of the reasons that it is highl...
There is no doubt that most people are more informed about autism than they were as recently as a couple of decades ago.
But there still things about the developmental disorder that people don't know and that's one of the reasons that it is highlighted during National Autism Awareness month in April.
Autism is a pervasive development disorder, meaning that it affects many aspects of a person's life, said Dr. Ellen Feldman, an Altru Health System child psychiatrist. Autism can cause a wide variety of impairments including non-developed verbal skills and non-developed social skills.
According to the most recent statistics, autism occurs in one out of every 110 children in the United States and is more common in boys than girls. There has been no conclusive research about what causes autism, but experts believe that it most likely is a combination of genetics and environmental factors, Feldman said.
There appears to be an increase in the number of children who have autism, but to what extent the numbers have grown isn't certain, Feldman said.
Experts do know, though, that early intervention is important in the treatment of autism.
"It's certainly important to be aware of your child's development," Feldman said. If parents are concerned about some aspect of their child's development or have had concerns expressed to them by someone who sees the child on a regular basis, they should voice them to their family doctor or pediatrician, she said.
Meanwhile, when parents take their infants and toddlers for their check-ups, they should talk to their doctors about their emotional and social development, as well as their physical development, she said.
If diagnosed early, there are several different types of behavioral interventions used to treat autism, Feldman said. The types of interventions used depend on the child's symptoms and level of impairment.
"They really have to be tailored to the child."
A team approach, which includes a medical provider, psychologist, psychiatrist, parents, educators and a variety of different types of therapists, typically is the best way to treat autism, Feldman said.
"I think what's hopeful to me is the progress that's been made in treatments... good early intervention, what a difference that makes in their lives," Feldman said. "It really is critical."
Besides being aware of the importance of early diagnosis, people need to be conscious that children with autism have feelings like every other child, Feldman said. Children with autism are different than other children in some ways, but they add interest to life and should be appreciated for the unique people they are, she said.
Reach Bailey at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org .