Observations on an Autism Workshop

March 5, 2017.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be part of a panel for the South Florida Autism Charter Schools‘ medical workshop. In attendance were ~50 parents, and a group of 9 professionals; including dentists, a pediatric neurologist, an Ob-Gyn, a pediatrician, a psychologist and behavioral therapist.

My role was to answer questions regarding the biomedical approach to ASD.
Here are some of the things that I learned:

Parents are extremely frustrated by the lack of available services for special needs patients. “He’s too big for our MRI machine,” or “They do not know how to handle her aggression,” were common complaints. Frankly, the presenters had few useful suggestions that the families hadn’t already attempted.

Therapists and administrators wanted to be sure that parents take advantage of all available means for relief, such as following up with a medication schedule, and notifying appropriate personnel about serious issues in a timely manner.

There was a general dissatisfaction about the medical community’s lack of understanding regarding special needs families. Since the panel was composed of busy professionals willing to give up a Saturday morning, they were basically ‘preachin’ to the choir’.

Everyone agreed that the ideal situation would be a ‘one-stop shop’ for patients to get all necessary testing and treatment. Cancer Treatment Centers of America, for example, advertises that availability, and many facilities now afford such service. It may be some time before supply catches up to the demand, for special needs children, however.

I enjoyed an in-depth discussion with Dr. Jose Berthe about the proper time, types of evaluation, and medical interventions, as girls with developmental challenges get older.

Dr. Yadira Martinez-Fernandez contributed her comprehensive knowledge of autism and cardiac health. Affected children who suffer genetic or other complicated disorders, or who take certain medications, may be at an increased risk, which can be ascertained by appropriate evaluation, such as blood pressure monitoring, or an EKG.

The dental experts reviewed their approach to oral health; from how to get a successful visit, to evaluation and treatment of the common symptom of teeth grinding.

Dr. Carrie Landess provided her unique perspective and valuable insights, as a pediatric neurologist who is also the parent of a child with ASD.

My good friend and colleague, Dr. Linda Colon, offered several practical solutions for the challenged families’ concerns. The general pediatric community would find a great deal more cooperation from families, were they to adopt her thoughtful and empathetic point-of-view toward the autism epidemic.

Dr. Moodie, the Executive Director, is a fireball. Her experience, knowledge, insight, and dedication is leading to tangible changes in the care of children with developmental difficulties.

Conclusion
Parents want – and deserve – more answers, better service, and faster roads to improvement for their special needs children. The South Florida Autism Charter School is doing a great job in providing a tangible means toward those ends.

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