Ten Ways Pediatric Neurologists Can Help Autistic Patients

With all due respect to the intelligence of physicians who take specialized training in child neurology, it appears that there is often some disconnect between their knowledge about autism and the approach to the families and patients affected by this modern epidemic.

10•Making the diagnosis and giving some tickets for therapies is not enough. Questions such as, “How did my child get this? How many get better? What other things can we do? Are there any tests? Where can I go for more information?” are sure to follow the diagnostic impression. At least, provide useful answers for those interrogatories.

9•The child neurologist has the opportunity to assess the risk of anesthesia versus the poor yield of an MRI. Likewise, assisting in the consideration of a short-term EEG, when there is no indication of seizure activity. Those technologies are not a diagnostic workup.

8•There is more than one kind of autism. There should be careful exploration about specific difficulties with the skin, gastrointestinal system, or frequent infections.

7•Neurologists are in a position to provide valuable assistance regarding various alternative treatments’ risks and expense. An off-hand dismissal about therapies to address other co-morbid conditions does not enhance that specialist’s stature in the eyes of the parents.

6•It might be helpful to suggest simple, possibly helpful treatments, such as dietary restrictions. What is there to lose? For the physician who is truly concerned about key deficiencies, this would be a good opportunity to check the child’s nutritional status with some blood work.

5•Doctors who continue to repeat, “You are doing a great job,” at each visit, with little documentation of change, are less likely to experience further visits.

4•In addition to the usual Fragile X-boy-test and Rett’s-girl-test, the neurologist can order a ‘chromosomal microarray’. Copy number variation affects up to 15% of ASD patients. Insurance companies pay for this. Although the results may not be valuable today, that knowledge may be quite important as our understanding about autism evolves.

3•A screening laboratory evaluation for anemia, kidney, thyroid, and liver status may yield a great deal of information. Even if the busy doctor cannot act upon abnormalities, they can be conveyed to the pediatrician.

2•Expressions such as, “I’m willing to say developmental delay,” or “We have to wait to give you a diagnosis,” are for the previous century. In young toddlers, communication is in its most formative stage. “Let’s err on the side of caution, and make sure that you get S&L, OT, ABA, right away.”

1•There are studies to show that patients can recover. Knowledge about that research and successful outcomes provides real hope for bewildered parents.

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