What you should know about autism and how UK HealthCare can help

Autism acceptance month

According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects about 1 in 44 children in the United States. That amounts to around 2.3 percent of the pediatric population. Signs of autism usually appear by age 2 or 3.

We recently spoke with Dr. Marisa Toomey of the Kentucky Children’s Hospital Department of Pediatrics about autism and how UK HealthCare can help the kids and families it affects.

What is the broad definition of autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a medical diagnosis. Individuals who have autism communicate with and interact with people in a different way than others. They also may have repetitive body movements, difficulties with unexpected changes, difficulties moving from one activity to another (known as “transitions”), and/or sensory concerns.  

What types of behavior might be common in children with autism?

Many individuals who have autism communicate how they are feeling through their behavior. Some children who are excited may show this emotion by jumping up and down or by flapping their hands. Some children who are frustrated may show this by trying to run to another room or by trying to hurt themselves (including biting their own hands or banging their heads). Some children who are experiencing medical pain, from things like a tooth ache or constipation, may also express this pain by appearing more upset or aggressive than usual.  

What treatments are available?

Although there is no cure for autism, there are developmental-behavioral therapies that help children who have autism gain developmental and social skills. These therapies also decrease unsafe behaviors, such as head-banging, hitting others, or trying to wander away in public places. Depending upon the individual child, these treatments may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech & language therapy, social skills groups, and/or behavioral therapy (such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy).

What programs are available through Kentucky Children’s Hospital to help parents of children with autism?

The Division of Developmental Pediatrics has two Family Support Specialists who work directly with families of children who have autism and other developmental disabilities. The Family Support Specialists are experts in helping families talk to their local school districts, locate options for developmental-behavioral therapies, and apply for things like the Kentucky Medicaid waiver program (the Michelle P. waiver).

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Each child who has autism is their own unique person. Each child will have their own strengths and their own areas that would benefit from extra help. Everyone in the Division of Developmental Pediatrics considers it a privilege to be able to help families determine if their child has a medical diagnosis of autism and, if so, help navigate developmental-behavioral therapies and resources for their child.

For more information, visit Kentucky Children's Hospital's autism resources for parents web page by clicking here, or call the Kentucky Children's Hospital Pediatric Specialty Clinic at 859-323-6211.

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.

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