Friday, January 14, 2011

San Diego hospital opens Autism Discovery Institute

From 10 TV News in San Diego:

SAN DIEGO -- A grand opening celebration was held Jan. 13 as Rady Children's Hospital opened the doors of its Autism Discovery Institute to the media.

The $1 million, nearly 12,000-square foot facility is home to a state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment Center, five classrooms, a sensory motor gym and several viewing rooms where parents can watch their children through a one way mirror. The facility is designed to handle 90 children on an out-patient basis.

"We've expanded our services so we can serve more families of children with autism. We have inclusion programs so that children with autism can learn to socially interact with their peers. We're hoping to be a place where families can come as early as they have a concern," said Aubyn Stahmerl, a research coordinator with the program.

The institute will be home to a unique program that mixes children with autism with kids who don't have developmental disorders.

The institute is one of only three facilities in the United States and the only one in California.

Niamul Khan has two daughters in the program and he said he's pleased with their progress.

"Both of us work and we don't have time to give to our daughters. Also in the school environment, they're getting the other kids so it's good for socialization," Khan said.

Autism is on the rise across the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year, one in 110 children were diagnosed with autism, a significant increase over previous years where the rate was one in 150.

According to the CDC, children with autism handle information in their brain differently than most people, and have symptoms that vary in both nature and severity.

The CDC says parents can detect possible autism in their children if they do not respond to their name by the time they are one year old, don't point at objects to display interest by the time they are 14 months, and not play pretend games by the time they are 18 months old.

Other symptoms include avoiding eye contact, wanting to be alone, having delayed speech and language skills, have obsessive interests or give answers unrelated to questions.

A reliable diagnosis of autism can be made when a child is 2 years old, according to the CDC.

The agency says about one in 110 children are afflicted with what they call Autism Spectrum Disorder, which includes autism, Asberger Syndrome -- which does not affect intellectual development, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder -- who meet some, but not all, of the criteria for the other conditions. The number of affected children is growing, according to the CDC.