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Autism Spectrum Disorder01-22-16

Autism has been getting a lot of attention in the news and media recently and it is sometimes hard to decipher all the information. However, the attention presents an opportunity for conversation and education about autism and how to help families dealing with it.  Autism is a complex developmental disability. It affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.


Currently, the Autism Society estimates that the lifetime cost of caring for an individual with autism can range from 3.5 to 5 million dollars and that the United States is facing almost $90 billion annually in costs for autism (this figure includes research, insurance costs and non-covered expenses, Medicaid waivers for autism, educational spending, housing, transportation, employment, in addition to related therapeutic services and caregiver costs). However, this figure can be reduced 2/3 or more with early intervention services. At ICON Pediatrics, our patients are screened routinely with developmental screening tools including the M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) at ages 18 months and 24 months.  Early detection and intervention can have a significant impact in the life of a child with autism. Many children who receive early intensive services, including speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and social skills training by qualified experts,  go on to develop good social and communication skills and attend mainstream kindergarten.


The rate of growth of autism spectrum disorder in the US has overwhelmed the referral centers around the country. In an effort to increase early intervention and referral for services, Vanderbilt and the Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics trained several community pediatricians that have a special interest in child development to be able to screen and diagnosis young children who are on the autism spectrum.  ICON Pediatrics serves as a coordinator of services for the detection and treatment of autism in children.


Signs to look for in your children….

  1. Lack of or delay in spoken language
  2. Repetitive use of language and/or motor skills
  3. Little or no eye contact
  4. Lack of interest in peer relationships
  5. Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
  6. Persistent fixation on parts of objects


More information about autism can be found at www.autism-society.org