Child Nett.tv has streaming videos and interviews and it's a wonderful effort to provide more information about autism from the Dan Marino Foundation. But one neurologist interviewed in a segment admitted he needed only an hour clinic visit to get a full clinical history from the parents, examine the child, and then make his diagnosis. We know this is the norm rather than the exception. But we have to ask, why is it that physicians take so little time so little time to make "The Diagnosis"?
In fact, we have heard physicians counsel, "it takes only 5 to 10 minutes to make the diagnosis, but months to understand the disease..." , referring to the 5 to 10 minute Gilliam Autism Rating Scale to make the diagnosis, but what is really going on here? We want to trigger a little soul searching on this point. It takes time to establish a relationship with a child, to see him play, to see how he uses language, to see how he can be drawn out, to see how he interacts with you and others, and to figure out how his individual nervous system is wired. Brain-based processing cues are complex and difficult to sort out. Is he missing visual cues because of eye movement or perceptual problems? Could there be a peripheral or central (brain-based) auditory processing deficit? How are his needs being expressed? What is he missing?
We know it's very important to identify children who need help, but before we sign this child up for self-contained classes, intensive behavioral therapy, or a psychiatric medication trial, shouldn't we figure out more about what's going on? The rates for the diagnosis of autism are skyrocketing (as high as 1 in 250 children by some reports) and from academic centers and parent support groups we have heard calls for earlier ages of diagnosis. But before we hasten to provide the solutions, we must ask, have we accurately identified the problems?
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