With ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) or autism becoming an increasingly serious issue, there are many organizations that have come forward to contribute to autism awareness and treatment. The Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS) is one among these organizations. MAPS is committed to providing care to children with ASD and other types of neurodevelopmental disorders.
To help pediatricians and other medical professionals gain an understanding of ASD and other related conditions, MAPS is organizing the MAPS SPRING 2015 Conference, from March 12-14, 2015, at Hilton Orange County, Costa Mesa. Many doctors, pediatricians and other health professionals are going to attend this conference as speakers, and will discuss about ASD, its interventions and treatment.
If you are a pediatrician, it’s important for you to get an in-depth knowledge and understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders, as that would enable you to deliver the right care to kids with these disorders. Attending this conference would prove to highly beneficial for you, as it would effectively educate you on ASD.
Listed below are the benefits pediatricians can get by attending the MAPS SPRING 2015 Conference:
1. Know about testing and evaluation
As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, screening should be done using standardized tests, at ages of 9, 18, 24 and 30 months. A few examples of these tests are – Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) and Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT). For the formal tests of examination of behaviors related to autism (Gilliam Autism Rating Scale or Childhood Autism Rating Scale), assessment of adaptive function (Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale), and cognitive level (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children), it is recommended that pediatricians should refer to a neuropsychologist.
Such tests are essential to determine the comorbid conditions and intellectual abilities of a child. Results of the tests would help in guiding school placement, so as to maximize the potential of the kid. Abilities may vary over time, and interim analysis might be beneficial in guiding the family.
2. Know about behavior of children with autism
Autistic kids sometimes show self-aggressive and disruptive behaviors, besides showing irritability, hyperactivity and anxiety. About 30% of autistic children show irritability ranging from moderate to severe. Such behaviors are not only distressing for teachers and parents, but are also sometimes disruptive for family activities, because of which parents need medical intervention.
Pharmacologic and behavioral treatments are quite helpful. FDA has approved Risperidone for targeted therapy, to help in case of aggression and severe tantrums in kids, and there are many studies supporting its use. In small studies, several antipsychotics, such as aripiprazole, quetiapine and Olanzapine have displayed beneficial effects. In kids with some comorbid condition like eplilepsy, it is helpful to use an anticonvulsant having mood-stabilizing characteristics (for example – valproic acid). Although the condition of autism has serotonergic dysregulation, using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for kids with ASD, is not supported by large controlled randomized studies.
3. Learn about link between autism and epilepsy
One-third of autistic kids experience seizures. The age at which onset of epilepsy occurs, displays a bimodal distribution usually. The first peak occurs before 5 years of age, and the second after puberty. The risk of seizures is increased if cognitive impairment is present. All kinds of seizures may be seen, including myoclonic, generalized tonic-clonic and complex partial. The repetitive movements of body and “staring spells” reported by many parents, are not phenomena related to seizure usually. They are likely to be types of stereotypic behavior.
For a kid with newly onset seizures, he/she should go for electroencephalography and brain MRI. However, it should kept in mind that electroencephalogram (EEG) findings may be abnormal in kids with ASD, where there is no evidence of any clinical seizures. So, abnormal findings of EEG, in a kid with no clear clinical events suggesting seizures, should be carefully handled. Whether or not the events that a family reports are really epileptic, can be determined with the help of prolonged EEG that records clinical events.
Seizure treatment makes use of standard antiepileptic medications, like levetiracetam, lamotrigine and valproic acid. It’s important to provide proper counseling to families with kids with ASD, on safety issues associated with activities like climbing, bathing and swimming, as mortality and morbidity related to these activities is greater for kids who experience epilepsy.
4. Know about treatment of ASD and autism:
There is no single method of treatment to treat all individuals with ASD. Medical professionals determine treatment options, according to the difficulties and strengths, and the unique needs of an individual. The treatment should be started early and the method of treatment should fulfill the needs of the kid. Difficulties in communication and behavior should be treated. Caregivers and parents should be involved in the process of treatment.
For ASD and autism, early intervention is extremely important. The aim of early intervention is reducing the autistic kids’ problematic behaviors (such as head-banging, interrupting and emotional outbursts), improving their communication and motor skills, and teaching them social skills. Early intervention also tries to enhance positive behaviors (like turn-making during social situations).
Though sometimes medications are utilized to expand attention span and lower unwanted behaviors, but, such unwanted behaviors should be reduced using alternative options. This is because several medications may lead to side-effects, particularly if kids take them for a prolonged period. Psychological treatment options, like behavioral intervention, have led to improvement in individuals with ASD.
By attending the MAPS SPRING 2015 Conference, you can get an insight into these aspects and several others, about ASD and related disorders. Register now to attend the conference.