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Autism, Developmental Disorders ‘Major Epidemics’


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The incoming head of the nation’s leading group of pediatricians says that autism and other developmental conditions are among the biggest health concerns facing American children.

James Perrin, a pediatrician at Harvard Medical School and MassGeneral Hospital for Children, was named president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics last month. In 2014, he will become president of the organization, which represents 60,000 pediatricians nationwide.

Now, Perrin is calling out the “tremendous growth” in autism and other developmental issues as one of “three or four major epidemics” facing American kids and adolescents.

“I think what we really want to be working on is recognizing that all of these conditions have grown tremendously in their prevalence over the last decade or so — things like obesity, asthma, mental health conditions like depression and ADHD, and things like autism and other neurodevelopment disorders,” Perrin told The Boston Globe. “We want to make sure we’re much better able to provide the kind of care that these children and their families need.”

As head of the pediatrics group, Perrin said he hopes to encourage more collaboration between care providers and said he wants to ensure doctors are compensated appropriately so that they can devote more than a 10-to-15 minute office visit to assessing a child for a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, for example.

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Comments (16 Responses)

  1. Adriana says:

    Here we go again. Oh boy!

  2. Tacitus says:

    How sad is it, when exactly those people who are in the best position to campaign for equality and inclusion choose instead to spout hate speech!

  3. KA101 says:

    Yep. The people standing to gain from medicalizing autism always seem to be crying that it’s an epidemic.

  4. Glen S says:

    Tacitus: How exactly is this hate speech? Interesting, if not fallacious, argument at best.

    KA101: “Medicalizing?” Really? You have often argued autism is a biochemical issue. By the very definition of biochemical it is a medical issue. And again, by the very nature of a developmental disability, they are medical issues. Whether they can be treated by traditional medicine, may be a different question all together.

    As much as I love my son for who he is now, if medical science came along and told me that a treatment existed which could effectively and painlessly produce myelination, his mother and I would jump at the chance.

    I can’t believe you would sit at your computer and advocate that we withhold treatments if they could be discovered. That is advocacy gone wrong.

  5. Linda Hanlon says:

    This What is needed is a full investigation of the correlation of these conditions and the failure of our Education System to adequately integrate knowledge about child development and research from neuroscience. The Public Education Systems response to Standards-Evidence Based Reform Initiatives protected the interests of adults and the status quo instead of implementing the systemic changes needed for improved teaching and learning. This has created conditions and practices that are harmful to children and families. We need to stop the blaming of children and families, blaming issues outside of school, and begin to create the conditions conducive to learning and healthy development of children. Schools need to stop saying they can’t do it alone and begin to meaningfully involve stakeholders in solving the problems.

  6. Sarah says:

    Our kid are being kids are being poisoned but noone in authority has the guts to come and say it. Pesticides coating our food, GMO’s, toxic ingredients in drugs manufactured from overseas where FDA has no real jurisdiction and shipped here. It all adds up to one thing- mass poisoning!

  7. Dadvocate says:

    This is an excellent development. The AAP has been unhelpful or grudgingly reactive for many years regarding autism spectrum disorders and their co-morbid conditions: pooh-poohing early identification efforts, acting dismissively regarding co-morbid GI and seizure disorders, and withholding a critical endorsement of evidence based behavioral interventions as medically necessary (the AAP’s stubbornly held “educational” label for behavioral interventions has enabled insurers to hurt countless families by providing the insurers with an excuse to discriminate against people who need these therapies). The support that AAP members have shown people with autism and their families has generally been non existent, pretty awful, minimal, and on rare occasions truly helpful (their are some wonderful exceptions among their members). The AAP appears to be looking to correct this weighting with Dr. Perrin’s election.

    Dr. Perrin has been an exemplary leader of the Autism Treatment Network and it looks like he’s coming out of the gate quickly to effect positive change at the AAP. Good stuff. Long overdue.

  8. Glen S says:

    Tacitus: Again with the fear mongering with no evidence to back it up. You and the “autism identity” advocates and make all the claims you want about being the true advocates of individuals with autism and developmental disabilities in general. The truth is that your influence is limited to sites such as this. And why is that? Because the majority of parents recognize that their children must live in the greater society. While they are not slaves to other “stakeholders,” they must refrain from the kind of vitriol of which some are guilty here and other sites.

    Your stance is without merit and, by definition, fallacious.

  9. KA101 says:

    Hello again, Glen S.

    I’ve argued against chemical intervention in people’s brains–true. I’ve also argued against applying chemicals to other parts of the body; apparently some parents think using bleach enemas can help autistic children. (Kinda counterproductive, and a fine example of the problems Tacitus mentions.)

    I don’t recall holding that autism is a biochemical or a medical problem. If you have cites, feel free to link; DisScoop didn’t seem to mind posting my links to DisScoop articles when I’ve done so.

    Last I checked, myelination problems caused things like cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, not autism.

  10. Glen S says:

    KA101: If you actually new or studied biology at all, you would know that all brain activity can be discussed in terms of biochemistry. Our memories, our decisions, our actions are all products of brain chemistry. The biochemical reactions all add up to become what remains, at least in part, the mystery of the brain. So, by advocating that autism is a “different way of thinking” as you and those who believe autism is an identity do; you are admitting that autism is a product of a biochemical pattern.

    Second, reread my statement. No where did I indicate that demylenation is a contributing factor. In fact I literally stated that my son suffers from demylenation. And no where here or anywhere else have I ever stated that my son has autism.

    Study more and read more carefully.

  11. Beverly Maurice says:

    We must start looking at the mental health of infants and their caregivers much sooner. Infants of depressed (or other mental illness) caregivers show signs of social withdrawal within weeks of birth. Studies show that medically show these babies are medically labelled as failure to thrive = infant depression. This can lead to sensory integration challenges as a precursor to ASD, ADHD, etc. It is critical to provide support, and to educate caregivers, on ways to have good positive interactions with their newborns. While the hospitals provide education on bathing, diapering and feeding your baby, they are missing this one critical component.

  12. KA101 says:

    Hmm. I’d considered opining on Glen S’ child’s d/x, but decided against it as the son hasn’t identifiably posted. Didn’t seem worth dragging a third party who may or may not be ready, willing, and able to participate into the discussion.

    (With parenting out, though, I’m at a loss for what basis you have to contradict me here. Advocacy does not a spectrum member make. If you claim spectrum membership, that needed to come out much earlier, because at this point I think neither of us considers the other particularly credible.)

    As for biochemistry: sure, one could theoretically reduce any aspect of humanity to biochemistry. Humans, like any living organism, basically are heaps of chemical reactions, and “achieved chemical equilibrium” is a euphemism for “died” that I picked up in undergrad bio.

    Problem there is that reducing people to their chemistry is only valid if one plans on using the person for their chemicals. People make grossly expensive (and illegal) fertilizer.

    Thank you for your time.

  13. Glen S says:

    KA101: You again need to do a search and will see that nowhere have I indicated that I or a member of my family is on the spectrum. As I have indicated this is the fallacy of the “identity” model of the spectrum. The belief that only individuals on the spectrum can be advocates is insulting to all of the parents, educators, doctors, lawyers, case managers, etc. who spend all of their days advocating for individuals with disabilities. It also is insulting to all of those (like my son) who have disabilities which are nowhere near the spectrum.

    So, I state again! Yours is advocacy gone wrong.

  14. annie says:

    Ok I don’t get it… One minute parents are hemming and hawing, fighting with all their willpower to get much needed interventions and therapies covered by their HEALTH INSURANCE for autism spectrum disorders, and now reading these posts, parents are furious that the medical establishment wants to pay attention? How can you bill your health insurance company for something you refuse to acknowledge as a medical issue… With increased medical interest in diagnosing these disorders will come increased insurance cooperation for interventions… So this should be a win. That is a real double standard that needs to be corrected.

  15. fairlady68 says:

    EXCUSE ME? I know you are a pediatrician, and to a guy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail, but what about the thousands, nay MILLIONS, of ADULTS on the spectrum? Yes, without a doubt, kids need help and support, but don’t forget us oldsters who have struggled alone for so many years with no self-knowledge of our disorder and little compassion or assistance from others.

  16. Glen S says:

    “MILLIONS, of ADULTS on the spectrum”, “oldsters,” “little compassion or assistance” Again, we see demonstrated by a poster hyperbolic statements and fear mongering. Let us be clear. If an adult can be self-sufficient, they should be. By all means, if a otherwise hard working employee requires a workplace to accommodate a purely physical disability, that work place should invest in the accommodation as long as it is safe for the employee to perform the job description. If a workplace needs to alter its training system to better accommodate an individual with a cognitive disability, they should to that as well.

    All early, elementary, high school, and even young adult supports should have this larger goal in mind: Anyone who can earn a wage and be self-sufficient should work and be self-sufficient.

    While it is true that for the past 20 years, systems have struggled to determine exactly what supports are effective and which are not; the over arching trend in society as a whole is toward greater compassion and support for individuals with disabilities. In order to determine what supports are effective and what supports are simply hand outs, further study is required. And for adults to be attempting to delay or derail any study, is hindering the greater good of individuals with disabilities.

    And if definitive causation can be determined and effective treatment determined, it is the family’s decision as to whether to seek that treatment. An “oldster” should not be standing in the way of a child’s ability to function in society.

    And if an adult is currently or has been unemployed because they don’t deal well with authority figures; it is time for that adult to seek life coaching and anger management training. This is a truth whether a disability exists or not.

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