Friday, January 8, 2010

An Exciting Article in Pediatrics is a Triumph for Parents of Kids with Autism

On January 4th in the Journal of Pediatrics two papers were published by a team of GI specialists. They were entitled: Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders in Individuals With ASDs (Autism Spectrum Disorders) A Consensus Report,and Recommendations for Evaluation and Treatment of Common Gastrointestinal Problems in Children With ASDs. The titles may sound a bit boring, but the significance and impact of these papers is monumental! You see, for years, many parents of children with autism were telling their doctors, "my child has horrible diarrhea, or they are severely constipated or they seem to be in pain." Additionally, these non-verbal kids often had unusual behaviors like biting themselves or aggression or waking up in the middle of the night screaming. Doctors, (not really understanding the medical or physical problems that often accompany an autism diagnosis) would say, "oh they have diarrhea or constipation because they are autistic. Or, they seem like they are in pain because they are autistic." I know what you are thinking....that just doesn't make sense. But it is true (as reported by hundreds if not thousands of parents.) Now, as a result of these new reports, pediatricians are instructed to no longer chalk up unusual behavior or bowel symptoms to the diagnosis of autism, but rather they are encouraged to investigate the underlying causes and treat the child's discomfort, pain, or GI disease. I know it seems like doctors should have listened to the parents long before this and it shouldn't have taken 27 investigators reviewing all the literature and publishing a consensus report in the Journal of Pediatrics to get pediatricians and others in the medical profession to wake up and take the necessary steps to address these conditions. But it did. I for one would like to celebrate this victory on behalf of the many parents who were told there was nothing that could be done, and for the children who had to suffer through their discomfort. Finally, the conclusion has been drawn that children with autism often do have medical disorders including GI diseases and that these maladies (abdominal pain, chronic constipation, diarrhea,and gastroesophageal reflux)can be at the route of unusual behavior. These two papers represent a long overdue acknowledgement of what parents had been telling doctors for years. Now I pray for the next miracle or breakthrough.... a similar paper will appear in a prestigious medical journal stating (what many of us already know) and that is: when a child with autism's physical discomfort and medical conditions are addressed and they begin to feel better....., lo and behold, they show improvement in other areas such as: cognition, speech, attention, behavior. The Defeat Autism Now! organization has been saying this for years. But you wait and see, mainstream docs are going to get this any day now!

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