AUTISM

AUTISM

June 11, 2012

Understanding Why Autistic People May Reject Social Touch


By MAIA SZALAVITZ

Full story: Time Heartland

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that doctors screen children for autism at their 18-month well-child visit. Briggs adds that parents must become aggressive champions for their children. “So much can depend on how good that parent is at advocating for the child,” says Briggs, noting that parents need to be aware not only of what services are available, but also which ones are best, which are not helpful and how to get the best care.
“That puts an incredible burden on parents,” she acknowledges. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting last week that autism now affects 1 in 88 children, it is becoming a burden shared by more and more American families.
Briggs says that the findings in the new study reflect the types of developmental trajectories she sees in children in her practice as director of the Healthy Steps program at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, which helps disadvantaged families access numerous services, including autism therapies, through their pediatricians’ office visits.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


She describes working with a 5-year-old autistic boy and his family. The family said he would come home from kindergarten crying, but they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Finally, he described how he felt while he waited for his mother to pick him up in the school’s cafeteria: “There were so many echoes bouncing off the walls that it felt like people were having a party in my head and they wouldn’t turn down the music,” he said.
Identifying the problem led Briggs to enroll the boy in listening therapy, which helped him cope with his sensitivity to sounds. When such sensory issues, which are common in autism, can be mitigated, children become far less stressed and far better able to learn other skills like social interaction and communication.
Most children from disadvantaged backgrounds aren’t able to get these kinds of services, however. “If we still see these huge differences in children with autism based on socioeconomic factors, we clearly don’t have enough programs or haven’t made them available enough,” Briggs says.
The research was published in Pediatrics.
Maia Szalavitz is a health writer for TIME.com. Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME Healthland‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIMEHealthland.

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