Military Doctor Cites Need for Early Intervention of Autism

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Story by Lt. Jennifer CraggSmall RSS IconSubscriptions Icon Subscribe To This Journalist

WASHINGTON – A Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences faculty member discussed Autism Awareness Month and the importance of early, proper diagnosis and treatment of children.

“Parents should feel confidence in raising questions about whether their child has autism,” Dr. Janice Hanson told “Dot Mil Docs” listeners during an, April 9, webcast on Pentagon Web Radio. “They are often the first ones to raise concerns and to raise them in a way that a pediatrician can sort out whether to be concerned, how concerned to be, and what to do about it next.”

According to Autism Speaks, a science and advocacy organization dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism, early intervention is critical to gain maximum benefit from existing therapies. While there are no effective means to prevent autism, no fully effective treatments, and no cure, current research suggests that early educational intervention for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements for many children with autism-spectrum disorders.

Hanson said children can be diagnosed with autism by age 3, but parents might notice changes in a child as young as 6 months. Three categories of characteristics describe a child with autism, she said.

“Before complete diagnosis of autism, a child would show some symptoms in … [each of] three areas: communication, social interaction, and stereotypical behavior,” Hanson explained. The three categories that go along with a diagnosis of autism include delayed speech or language; differences in social interaction, such as avoiding eye contact or misunderstanding social cues; and stereotypical behaviors such as playing with toys with a ritual behavior or rocking over and over again.

“Autism is a disorder of communication and social interaction,” the doctor said. “There is a range of disorders actually that fall within a spectrum that we call pervasive developmental disorders. The range goes from classic autism, with a fairly significant difference in communication and social interaction, to Asperger’s Syndrome, which is more mild and sometimes more difficult to diagnose.

“Also included in the spectrum is a group of children that don’t exactly fit the criteria, but have many of the characteristics,” she continued, “and they are called children with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.”

Hanson said the number of children diagnosed is hard to pin down with current data.

“That is actually a subject of debate and research as we speak,” she said. “I just read a study that summarized 43 studies in the literature from the last several decades, trying to pin down what that number might be, so what we have is a range of numbers. The greatest number would be about one child out of 150, and this would be the most broad use of the diagnostic categories, which would include children with autistic diagnoses all along that spectrum from the most severe to the most mild.”

Hanson said whether the number of diagnoses is increasing is another controversial subject.

“There has been a lot of controversy for the past 10 to 15 years about whether the incidence of autism is increasing, and if so why,” she said. “Some people think yes, it is definitely increasing. Others think we have improved our ability to identify these children and we’ve changed our criteria to include broader numbers.”

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences is working toward educating and training physicians and nurses to accurately diagnosis autism early.

“We have a medical school and a graduate school of nursing that educates and trains physicians and nurse practitioners to work in the military health system, and that is where I am on the faculty,” Hanson said. “We do an intense, focused job of providing education for these students, not only about autism, how to diagnosis, and what to watch for, but also about the military environment and the special challenges for military families.

“We are trying very hard to send new doctors into our military health system with a strong awareness of when to refer, where to refer and how to get a child accurate diagnosis and effective interaction,” she added.

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Give Your Old Tablet to Arts4Autism and Help an Autistic Child by Vickie Ewell!!!



Technology News Zone aka Arts4autism wants to give the gift of technology to autistic children. If replacing your iPad or other tech equipment, why not donate your old one?

A new Nevada nonprofit corporation, Autism Advocacy and Technology News Zone, Inc., appeared on the scene last January. Their mission? To give the gift of technology, educational assistance, music, and the arts to autistic individuals and families in need. Run by David J. Berkowitz, a tech-savvy brainiac with Asperger’s Syndrome and father to three children on the spectrum, Berkowitz wants to “pay it forward” by making a difference in the lives of those affected by autism.

Do you have a microphone or DVD player gathering dust in the closet? Are you thinking about replacing your current tablet or laptop? Do you want to update your digital camera to a newer, better model? Why not take a moment and consider how many autistic families can’t afford what you’re not using, or are about to throw away.

Cost of Raising a Child with Autism Hinders Their Future Employment Possibilities

With autism affecting at least 1 in 110 individuals, the direct and indirect costs of raising autistic children in an atmosphere of continued recession here in the United States is hitting Medicaid programs hard. According to The Autism Society, because of declining tax revenues and drained budget reserves, “the vast majority of states are proposing deep and sweeping budget cuts that will hurt families by reducing necessary and proven services.”

Reductions and cuts in health insurance, support services, sensory integration therapy, specialized school programs, family training, and employment support programs means families will either be put on a long waiting list or have to pay for their child’s needs themselves. The less funding families receive in meeting these needs, the less likely they will have money to expose their child to the world’s technological advances that could help prepare them to hold down a job – and therefore benefit society – in the future.

Autism Advocacy and Technology News Zone, Inc. Wants to Take Up the Slack

David Berkowitz, President of Autism Advocacy and Technology News Zone, Inc. and regional sales manager for a technical software company, has a passion for technology, education, music, and the arts. When researching how he could personally help his fellow autistics, he found articles and studies that showed tablets were an excellent tool to replace Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. “There is a kindergarten class here in Nevada that is using them for education,” Berkowitz says. “I live, die, and breathe technology. Love it, as do my kids.”

Many children on the spectrum are attracted to technological devices. By capitalizing on that strong interest and obsession, it’s possible to give these kids a strong enough tech foundation to make a real difference in their lives, and the lives of their families. For example, last March, Fox News reported that an Apple iPad could help autistic kids deal with sensory overload.

Many children with autism have trouble communicating their basic needs, making a tablet extremely useful. With the help of apps, tablets provide these kids a way to unlock their “closed state” and communicate their desires and feelings, as well as educate.

Berkowitz shared that “One of my sons, 15-years old, has Asperger’s and is in tech theatre at his high school.” However, educational funding in Nevada is quite low. Berkowitz hopes to be able to receive enough donations that he can gain a 501c status, which will then enable him to help buy things like iPads that schools, families, and other organizations need.

What Can You Do to Help?

While Tech News Zone hopes to receive monetary donations that they plan to put towards buying tablets and other new tech devices for autistic individuals, schools, and other organizations – depending on their need – they also accept used equipment. “It doesn’t have to be the newest technology,” Berkowitz says. “If you don’t know what to do with your old stuff, you can donate it to Tech News Zone.” Examples might include:

Tablet PCs and iPads
musical instruments
microphones for band, choir, and drama clubs
all types of computer equipment
computer software like older Photoshop versions
PC and video games equipment
portable gaming systems
VCRs and DVD players
radios, stereos, and disc players
E-book readers
digital cameras

Basically, anything that deals with electronics, music, or the arts – including corporate sponsorships, name exposure, and anything that will help build autism awareness for their cause. Berkowitz would also like to help give autistic families tickets to plays, concerts, sporting events, or movies; and would appreciate gift cards for various electronic and tech devices.

Giving the Gift of Technology Can Change Lives

Over the past four years, each of the four houses Berkowitz rented went into foreclosure. “I have been downsized, right-sized, and left-sized,” he says. “These foreclosures have harmed our credit. My kids’ lives at times were not as fun as their peers, since we could not afford things like plays, and Disneyland.” While Berkowitz wants to reach out to everyone, his dream is to “help autistic people, their families, and Special Ed classrooms and programs.”

Before you toss away that older laptop, digital camera, tablet, or other technological device, take a minute to think about the difference you can make in someone’s life. “I have always wanted to make a difference,” Berkowitz says, “and decided to finally do it.” Like Berkowitz, you too can decide to give the gift of technology to an autistic child.


Autism Society, “The Budget Crisis,” (accessed June 14, 2011).

Fox News, John Brandon, “Is the iPad a ‘Miracle Device’ for Autism?” March 9, 2011 (accessed June 15, 2011).

Interview with the President of Autism Advocacy Technology News Zone, Inc., David Joseph Berkowitz