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Marshall Pediatrics Explains Autism Awareness, Advances

April 21, 2017 — Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects 1 in 68 children nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet it remains both common and misunderstood.

April is Autism Awareness Month, a time to increase our understanding of a complicated medical issue. Recent years have seen gains in how clinicians treat ASD. As that happens, Elizabeth Peterson, MD, of Marshall Pediatrics said, society grows more tolerant of those who suffer from it.

“Kids with autism, it doesn’t mean that they’re developmentally delayed,” Dr. Peterson said. “They can be really bright kids. It really is a deficit in social behaviors and communication. For example, a lot of kids who are on the spectrum don’t point at things. They lack basic social cues.”

In the past, doctors often did not make a diagnosis until child was late preschool-age or older. Times have changed. Research has shown the appearance of symptoms at an earlier age. Marshall Pediatrics screens for ASD at both 18 months and 2 years.

But ASD is still defined more by uncertainty than specifics.

Over 70 years since first identifying the disorder (as “children’s inability to relate themselves in the ordinary way to people and situations,” Dr. Leo Kanner said in 1943), researchers don’t know its cause. The brain of an affected child may feature structural issues or lack certain chemicals. Combinations of genetic and environmental factors trigger its onset.

Awareness leads to accessible treatment options that are scientifically proven. The last five years have seen insurance plans, both private and state health programs, include behavioral treatment coverage. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy is the most effective such option to manage ASD.

The analysts “recognize those problem behaviors – whether it’s oppositional behavior, or not wanting to go out in public – and pinpoint it,” Dr. Peterson said. “Then they look for some way to motivate that child to change that behavior. They ignore negative behaviors and focus on positive reinforcement.”

A handful of Marshall’s physicians have experience with ASD. Marshall Pediatrics newest doctor, Katherine Milroy, MD, arrives with much experience treating autistic patients as well.

How do I schedule a screening with Marshall?

Contact Marshall Pediatrics at 530-626-1144

Who is affected by ASD?

The disorder happens much more often in boys than girls. Four to five times as many boys as girls have ASD. The prevalence in the U.S. is 1 in 68 births, per the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

How is ASD diagnosed?

There is no single medical test for ASD. Doctors use certain indicators – no babbling, pointing, or gesturing by age 12 months, no eye contact at 3-4 months – and screening tools to help diagnose ASD in children before age 2.

How is ASD treated?

ASD can be treated with behavior change and special education programs. Led by Board Certified Behavioral Analysts (BCBA’s) and Applied Behavioral Analysts (ABA’s), behavior change programs teach social skills, movement skills, and thinking (cognitive) skills. These programs can help a child change problem behaviors.

What other nearby providers treat ASD patients?

Alta California Regional Center in Placerville specializes in patients with developmental disabilities. Though there are no ABA therapists in El Dorado County, Sacramento County-based caregivers provide home visits in our local area, Dr. Peterson said. Serving patients from Galt to Chico, Capitol Autism Services (916-923-1789) is an example.

Marshall is an independent, nonprofit community healthcare provider located in the heart of the Sierra Foothills. Marshall includes Marshall Hospital, a fully accredited acute care facility with 125 beds in Placerville; several outpatient facilities in Cameron Park, El Dorado Hills and Georgetown; and many community health and education programs. Marshall has more than 200 physicians and 1,500 employees providing quality healthcare services to more than 180,000 residents of El Dorado County.