Top Five Autism Myths

April 2, 2014

April is Autism Awareness Month. The newest data indicates that one in 68 U.S. children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

Because there is no known cause of autism many myths circulate about the cause, treatment and prevention.  Dr. John Mantovani, medical director of the Mercy Kids Therapy & Development Center and chair of pediatrics at Mercy Children’s Hospital, wanted to clarify the top five myths.

Myth 1:  Autism is one thing.

Dr. Mantovani explains that there is not just one type of autism but instead Individual cases of autism always range across an entire autism spectrum. Because it can show up in a variety of ways such as impairments in social interaction, communication, interests, and behavior, detection and appreciation of what a diagnosis means in real terms for an individual and a family can be challenging.

Myth 2:  The cause of autism is known.

Dr. Mantovani says that unfortunately, there is no known single cause of autism, “If we had an identified cause it would make it easier to understand.” Suspected contributors to the disorder abound, but a single, identifiable trigger isn’t out there.

Myth 3:  There is a single, biological cure.

“There’s not a pill to swallow, an injection to get, or a perfect diet that’s going to cure autism,” Dr. Mantovani clarifies. “Because there’s no single enemy to battle in autism, all treatments are based on a whole host of interventions by educators, behavioral specialist, therapists and parents.”

At Mercy, we work with the family and the child to figure out how to rewire some of the circuits that are causing the developmental variations that we call autism.  And that isn’t an easy process.

Myth 4:  The increased numbers are just diagnostic (or entirely based on “new” cases).

This is a difficult one. There is more awareness about ASD, so more people are recognizing the symptoms and we're finding it earlier. Because there's a wide range of disorders within autism there are more who fall into that spectrum. However, Dr. Mantovani says even with these explanations, concern that there is truly a core increase is there and we're searching hard to find a reason.

Myth 5:  There are sure-fire measures for prevention.

Once there's a known cause for autism then research can begin on prevention. There's no cure but because our children are vulnerable to autism, it's important to diagnose and begin treatment early. “Getting the intervention going seems to give us a better opportunity to get the brain rewired and improve the functioning in some of those systems.”

Mercy Kids offers several programs for children with autism:

The Autism Diagnostic and Assessment Program offers interdisciplinary diagnostic and assessment services for individuals suspected of having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The evaluations are tailored to the specific needs of each child and family. Evaluations will be conducted at the MKTDC by a board-certified medical specialist and a psychologist or other developmental specialist who use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), to evaluate developmental, cognitive, and behavioral functioning.

Families receive diagnostic information and intervention recommendations on the same-day. For those children who require more extensive testing, additional evaluations by other team members (speech pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, applied behavior analyst, child neurologist or child psychiatrist) will be scheduled promptly in order to provide the most appropriate recommendations for interventions. 

 

Mercy Kids offers several programs for children with autism:

The Autism Diagnostic and Assessment Program offers interdisciplinary diagnostic and assessment services for individuals suspected of having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The evaluations are tailored to the specific needs of each child and family. Evaluations will be conducted at the MCTDC by a board-certified neurodevelopmental pediatrician (with expertise in applied behavior analysis) and a clinical psychologist who will use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), to evaluate developmental, cognitive, and behavioral functioning.

Families receive diagnostic information and intervention recommendations in a same-day feedback session. For those children who require more extensive testing, additional evaluations by other team members (speech pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, applied behavior analyst, child neurologist or child psychiatrist) will be scheduled promptly in order to provide the most appropriate recommendations for interventions. 

The Medical Consultation Program for Autism is another new program within the Autism Center. This program offers specialty team consultations to families and referring providers for children with ASD who have one of the following additional issues:

GI/Nutrition disorders:For children with ASD and significant digestive, bowel-related or nutritional disturbances who will benefit from a team evaluation by an autism specialist, pediatric gastroenterologist and licensed pediatric dietician.

Complex Behavior Disorders: For with ASD children aged 3-12 years who have complex or severe behavioral problems that would benefit from advice from an autism specialist (neurodevelopmental pediatrician with certification in applied behavior analysis) and a child psychiatrist with expertise in psychopharmacology.

Sleep Disorders:  For children with ASD who are experiencing difficult-to-manage sleep disturbances and would benefit from a combined evaluation by an autism specialist and board-certified sleep medicine physician.

Intensive Early Intervention ProgramBased at Mercy Co-worker Children's Center, it's unique in its curriculum, scope, and the use of integrated therapeutic techniques. It's based on the evidence-based Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism and is designed for children ages 18-36 months.

Social Communication Groups: These groups also operate within the center. These groups also use an evidence-based model to encourage children in the development of social communication and relationship development.

For information regarding diagnostic testing and an early childhood intervention program for children with ASD between 18-36 months of age contact The Autism Center at Mercy Children’s Therapy & Development Center at 314-872-3345.

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