Friday, July 13, 2007

Autism Surging - Some Plain Truth From Dr. McCarton

With news of autism surge in the UK the response was swift. Vaccine causes autism believers claimed vindication. Simon Baron-Cohen, for reasons that aren't clear, went 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Not content to point out the current scientific consensus negating the existence of a causal relationship between vaccines and autism the Baron-Cohen went on to say that we should assume that the surge is simply a result of changing diagnostic criteria and increased awareness. On that assumption there is no scientific consensus.

From Cecelia McCarton, M.D. comes some common sense and some truth speaking: we simply don't know what is behind the staggering increases in reported cases of autism. The implication of that factual statement is that we should not as Baron-Cohen advocates assume that environmental factors play no role in the autism surge that the world is witnessing.

Dr. Cecelia McCarton is a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She is the founder and director of the McCarton Center for Developmental Pediatrics and the Executive Director of the McCarton School for children with autism spectrum disorders.

Surge in Autism Cases Confounds Researchers, Expert Says

By Victor M. Inzunza

The nation is in the midst of an “explosion” in the number of children with autism and researchers are at a loss to explain the surge in cases, said an expert in the treatment of childhood developmental disorders at a conference at Fordham University.

Speaking at the Fordham Graduate School of Education’s fifth annual Early Childhood Conference on April 27, Cecelia McCarton, M.D., said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimate the prevalence of autism among American children at 1 in 150.

“These children are coming at us day after day after day,” said McCarton, a professor of clinical pediatrics at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine and founder of the McCarton School, which treats children with autism. “The numbers are staggering. I would say that 15 years ago, if I saw two children a month who … were classified as being autistic, that was a lot ... . Now, I probably see four or five cases a week that come to my office.

“We don’t know the reason for this. We simply don’t know the reason this is occurring.”

Autism is a spectrum of developmental disabilities that strike early in childhood that can interfere with the ability to communicate, learn and form relationships, locking some young people in a kind of mental prison.

The conference, which was co-sponsored by Los NiƱos Services, Autism Speaks and Riverside Publishing, drew more than a dozen scholars and healthcare professionals from throughout the country to discuss the latest research on and treatment of autism and developmental disabilities.

Autism is a particularly difficult disorder to treat, McCarton said, because of its pervasive nature. Unlike disorders that affect only motor skills or speech and language, she said, autism “cuts across every single developmental area.”

For McCarton, a key is to first get a comprehensive evaluation of the child that includes such things as a neurological exam, cognitive testing, speech and language assessments, and physical and occupational therapy evaluations.

This comprehensive exam should form the basis of a tailored and multidisciplinary plan to help the child overcome some of autism’s most ravaging effects.

“If you give a diagnosis [of autism], it is not a death sentence,” she said. “There is hope. What we are able to do now with children who are on the [autism] spectrum would have been inconceivable 50 years ago. So there is tremendous hope. Of course, it’s sad. Nobody wants that for their child…, but we can really do something about this.”

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