One thing that pediatricians are certain of is the earlier a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be made, the sooner a child can begin receiving life-changing therapies. An early diagnosis also helps parents deal with the immense challenges they and their families face in raising a child with autism, providing them with tools to help their child learn, succeed in school, and enjoy life on through to adulthood. Dr. Michael Petrosky (Pediatric Alliance — Wexford) tells Northern Connection Magazine that early diagnosis can be elusive but is possible:
One way earlier diagnosis can be made is through the interaction between families and medical providers. “Well child” checks are important tools that not only ensure typical growth and current immunizations, but also serve to ensure that children are developing normally. It is important to bring the child to all the recommended checkups and to answer developmental questions honestly. Also, direct and routine screening for autism should be done at the age of 18-24 months. Parents/ caregivers need to bring up concerns during the visit, such as concerns for speech delay, lack of socialization and/or repetitive movements.
Dr. Petrosky says it takes a village to help autistic children along their unique developmental pathways and aid parents in navigating through the health care maze, the educational system, and the regulatory morass:
Currently, there are several modes of treatment that range from speech therapy to applied behavior analysis
to socialization and respite for families/caregivers. These therapies help individuals grow, learn, and become more independent. With a high prevalence of autism, more professionals are needed who have the skills required to
carry out these therapies. As the autistic child grows,
school becomes a bigger part of life. Schools can and
should help the family coordinate services and promote inclusion. Sometimes, however, the needs of the child are
not always met. With laws in place to protect individuals with disabilities, IEP’s and/or 504 plans should be commonplace with this group. If this is not happening, advocates, such as pediatricians, are available to help navigate the school system.
Children diagnosed with ASD and their families can take advantage of a very special place in Pittsburgh’s North Hills — The Woodlands. Dr. Petrosky sits on its Board of Directors:
This camp facility is located in Wexford and is dedicated to children and adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses. With summer camps, weekend retreats, and club programs, autistic children can learn important life skills to help them navigate the world. They can also be kids in a safe and accessible environment.
Read more about The Woodlands on The PediaBlog here.
Read the rest of the article from Dr. Michael Petrosky in Northern Connection Magazine here.