The Centers of Disease Control recently stated one of every 88 children is now diagnosed with autism. Is this an epidemic? In the eyes of Mark Roithmayr, the president of Autism Speaks, the reply is a resounding yes.
April 2 was World Autism Awareness Day. All over the world buildings such as the Sydney Opera house and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro shined in blue lights to show support in the research and treatment of autism. The epidemic is a worldwide issue.
At Crown Point Pediatric Health Center, we start screening for autism at nine months of age. We continue screening at every well child check and focus questionnaires for parents at eighteen and twenty- four months of age. Research shows that early detection is better for the patient.
So why are the numbers increasing? Yes – diagnosis is made now more often. In the past autistic children were misdiagnosed other developmental diagnoses. But what are the other reasons? Is there any environmental exposure? Can genetics play a part? Too many questions and not enough answers. Even more questions arise after the diagnosis is made. What do we do now? What kinds of therapy will help? Will medical insurance cover the large costs of therapy? I wish I could be the full resource physician for parents of these children. It is my responsibility to see the possible symptoms and get the child evaluated as early in age as possible. But the diagnosis is made by other medical specialists- and they typically have waiting lists.
My advice to all parents is to speak up. Tell your child's health care provider if you have concerns of your child's development. If your child has autism you must be the advocate for your child. Make an appeal if your health insurance denies coverage of a therapy you believe can help your child. School systems have only so many resources and less funds. You need to state your thoughts and wishes for the best health of your child and work as a team to get the help he/she needs.
Dr. Lisa Gold is a pediatrician practicing in Crown Point, Indiana, at the Crown Point Pediatric Health Center. The views and opinions expressed on this blog entry are Dr. Gold's. They do not necessarily reflect those of Franciscan Alliance or its affiliated hospitals and health centers.