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ED Use Among Kids With Autism

Improvements to community-based psychiatric systems of care for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) could help divert psychiatric-related ED visits, according to findings from a large observational study. Among children with ASD, 13% of ED visits were for a psychiatric problem, compared with a 2% rate for visits involving children without ASD. Among children with ASD, those with private insurance had a greater risk for a psychiatric ED visit than those with medical assistance (odds ratio, 1.58). Abstract: Pediatric Emergency Care, December...
One in 54 Boys Has Autism

One in 54 Boys Has Autism

World Autism Awareness Day draws attention to an illness that now affects 1 in every 88 children in the United States. The figure was cited in a study on autism spectrum disorder recently released by the CDC; the report also reveals that the disorder is almost five times more common among boys than girls. The largest increases were among Hispanic and African-American children. The CDC report, published in the March 30 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders – Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, United States, 2008, found a 78% increase in  cases of autism from 2002 to 2008. Why the increase? One theory is that it’s due to increased awareness — thanks to events like today’s World Autism Awareness day — but health experts warn that this is not responsible for the entire trend. According to the study, more children are being diagnosed by age 3, an increase from 12% for children born in 1994 to 18% for children born in 2000. However, 40% of the children still aren’t getting a diagnosis until after age 4. Today, the global autism community celebrates World Autism Awareness Day, which encourages  measures to raise awareness about autism throughout society and to encourage early diagnosis and early...
First iPad App for Children With Autism

First iPad App for Children With Autism

App developers and education and informatics researchers from the University of Edinburgh have collaborated on a new iPad game  called FindMe — the first-ever attempt to fuse autism research with iPad gaming. The app could help improve social skills in autistic children as young as 18 months. Children with autism have a strong visual memory, but they cannot use a mouse or keyboard; they can, however, use touchscreens, tablets, and other mobile technologies. Like most children’s games, FindMe is very simple. It challenges children to find an onscreen character in different scenes. Using the iPad’s touch screen, players simply tap the character to move onto the next, more complex level. While it may be a simple visual exercise for children who are not autistic, children who are may find it challenging to “see” the person due to non-human objects and other distractions.  Each time the child correctly identifies the person in the scene, they are rewarded with a cartoon animation sequence. Each level becomes more complex with the ultimate goal being to help children practice simple social skills repetitively. Versions of the game under development will focus on other common difficulties in autism, such as being unable to follow a pointing finger or monitor where another person is...
New Autism Definition May Exclude Many

New Autism Definition May Exclude Many

Proposed changes to the definition of autism, currently under review by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, are expected to significantly reduce the soaring rate of autism diagnoses. The panel is completing work on the 5th edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or “The DSM.” Cases of of autism and related disorders such as Asperger syndrome or “pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified” (PDD-NOS) have skyrocketed since the early 1980s, and many researchers believe the numbers are inflated due to vague criteria. The proposed change would consolidate all three diagnoses under one category, autism spectrum disorder, removing Asperger syndrome and PDD-NOS from the manual. Under the current criteria, one can qualify for the diagnosis by exhibiting six or more of 12 behaviors. Under the proposed criteria, the patient would have to exhibit deficits on a much narrower menu: three deficits in social interaction and communication and at least two repetitive behaviors. “We need to carefully monitor the impact of these diagnostic changes on access to services and ensure that no one is being denied the services they need,”  Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, told  The New York Times. “Some treatments and services are driven solely by a person’s diagnosis, while other services may depend on other criteria such as age, IQ level or medical history.” Physician’s Weekly wants to know… What do you think about changing the definition of autism? What benefits and/or pitfalls do you...
Autism Spectrum Disorders Diagnoses Vary Widely

Autism Spectrum Disorders Diagnoses Vary Widely

Best-estimate clinical diagnoses of pediatric patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) appear to vary widely across regions, according to a study published online in Archives of General Psychiatry. Diagnostic instruments have been valuable for ASDs by helping to define populations, merge samples, and compare results across studies. However, the use of best-estimate clinical diagnoses has been the gold standard in ASD evaluation. An observational study analyzed 12 university-based research sites, including 2,102 participants (mostly male) between ages 4 and 18 who had a clinical diagnosis of an ASD. Although there was consistent use of standardized measures and similar distributions of scores across sites, the proportion of children assigned to one of three ASD categories (autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, and Asperger syndrome) varied significantly between sites. The biggest factors in diagnosis included verbal IQ, language level, and core features of autism (communication and repetitive behaviors). However, clinicians at each site used the available information and set cut-offs on certain measures to establish a diagnosis differently. Physician’s Weekly wants to know… Do you feel the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders varies within your medical community? Could insurance coverage play a role in the diagnosis...
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